Afonso came to Treloar’s in 2014 and is a very happy and capable student who loves and wants to study music. Becausehe has cerebral palsy and no verbal speech, Assistive Technology is a part of Afonso’s everyday life but his story shows how, working with our Assistive Technology team, it can also be adapted and its uses expanded to help Afonso achieve his goals.

Afonso has collaborated with the team to create an adaption for his computer which has been mounted onto his wheelchair. This helps him continue to learn and improve his communication skills. Together, they have also built a prototype buzzer which Afonso presses with his foot to allow him to make choices and control his computer and other devices. Afonso has worked incredibly hard with the Assistive Technology team so that his switch meets his needs and works well every time. It has changed his life as well as the life of everyone interacting with him.

Afonso has demonstrated such brilliant progress using his footswitch that his Speech Therapist and Assistive Technologist have presented their work at the National Communication Matters Conference at Leeds University, attended by over 400 leading professionals. This is an amazing achievement by Afonso and our Technology team and we are extremely proud of them!

Afonso has also been working with the Assistive Technology department to investigate the possibility of using his footswitch to drive a powered wheelchair. This would give him greater independence and an improved quality of life. Initial trials using our in-house expertise have shown great promise.

Afonso is a lover of music and has given visitors, including the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor of London, some wonderful performances using his buzzer to play accompanying music for some of our singers in the Treloar’s choir.

The collaboration between Afonso and the Assistive Technology team has not only yielded great results for Afonso, enabling him to pursue his passion for music and opening up possibilities for a more independent future, it could also help other students widen their horizons.

“I’m Afonso I am 15 years old and I am from Portugal, I moved to the UK in August 2013 and started at Treloars school in April 2014. I started using my Tobii for communicating using eye gaze in June 2014 but found it very hard and incredibly slow so I then started using a foot switch with Tobii, I did things much faster, although it still takes time. This piece has taken hours to write, I still need a lot of help to use this equipment as I can have head spasms every few seconds which means my head can move to face in the opposite direction without any control from me and I can’t move it back to see the Tobii so I need someone to move the device so that I can see it again. I have a disability that means I can’t walk, I can’t talk and I can’t play without a person to help me, I only can watch TV if my spasms will let my head stay in the right place! I hate because I can’t do anything. I can’t go out without an adult to help, imagine you can’t go out without an adult but you wanted to go out with your friends but you can’t. My Tobii its very good because now I can do everything. Life continues every day it’s a new day and new challenges I pass. I’m happy!”