Shannon is an enthusiastic, bright, determined College student who recently took some time out of her day to talk to me about the Communication Aid she uses and her progress in developing her independence here at Treloar’s. She started by telling me that she has cerebral palsy but can understand everything that goes on around her – she speaks by using a communication device (a “TellUs4”) and a variety of gestures and facial expressions.
Shannon’s “TellUs4” operates by scrolling through a number of on screen options – she can then focus on a particular word, phrase or sentence to allow her to construct what she would like to say. This can be done word by word or Shannon will pre-select and programme in sentences if she knows she is going to be meeting somebody and what they are going to be talking about. Shannon then uses a switch in the headrest of her wheelchair to activate the voice mechanism to speak her words. As Shannon wanted to explain how she moves around the campus, in advance of our meeting she programmed “I use a power wheelchair: if it breaks down I use a manual chair and I need to be pushed”. She also drives her power wheelchair using the same head switch in her headrest but connected to the appropriate control.
Shannon went on to say that she worked with the Speech and Language team at Treloar’s to learn how to use her TellUs4 and was amazed and excited at being able to use it immediately – although she has also been angry at times as it can be slow which she finds frustrating when she wants to express herself. To master the TellUs4 required a great deal of patience and determination and Shannon’s perseverance is admirable.
Shannon told me about the other skills she is learning here at Treloar’s – undertaking work experience in our Learning Resource Centre, and community skills when her TellUs4 allows her to place orders for drinks in a café or to talk to a shop assistant. She also regularly attends cookery classes and can direct her care staff as to her preferences. Shannon volunteered for the role of an ambassador at Treloar’s so spends time meeting and greeting our visitors and explaining what she has learnt during her time here. It is always a great pleasure to speak to her to hear about her progress, and to see the results of her hard work and determination to learn and develop her independence skills.
All of our students are supported by a multi-disciplinary team who work with them to address and meet their individual needs. This team can include academic tutors, members of the three therapy teams (Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech & Language Therapy), our Assistive Technologists, Visual Impairment Adviser, Dieticians and Transition workers. Each student will benefit from a combination of input from the team assigned to work with them to meet their individual needs. Shannon has benefited from this multi-disciplinary approach whilst at Treloar’s.