Eye-Gazing Technology Has The Potential To Change Lives

Ahmad uses a communication switch
to activate a popcorn machine.
Ahmad K. is embarking on a six-week journey — a trial using eye tracking technology that has the
potential to change his life.

The seven-year-old has significant motor and neurological deficits. However, over the past year teachers and therapists at the New England Pediatric Care Day School have observed emerging communication skills. Ahmad uses many vocalizations to greet people and to have his needs met by caregivers.

The Tobii Dynavox in the trial uses cameras, sensors and algorithms to track eye movement while the user is looking at a computer screen. The implications for communication are big.

“If Ahmad demonstrates that he can learn using this technology he will be able to express his needs to caregivers by using the functions of the Tobii to point to pictures on a computer screen,” said Director of Education Amy Gagnon, M.Ed.

Ahmad uses Big Mack switches in school.
When the Tobii is paired with speech generating devices, individuals can “speak” by activating prerecorded words and messages.

“Speech generation is huge for teaching and learning,” Amy said. “Augmentive and adaptive technology enables the student to be a more active participant in their school day and at home.”

The trial will determine whether Ahmad can use the Tobii functionally, meaning whether he can use his ocular muscles consistently so that that the software algorithms can work. If so, the system can be purchased for his personal use.

“We have had successful outcomes with Tobii in the past. A second student is in the midst of a similar trial,” Amy noted.

For more information about the day school at NEPC, visit www.nepc.org.