Image: Client artwork at a Yooralla site

Scottie’s new Eye Gaze Communication Aid increases his independence

Scottie, a Yooralla Client using his Eye Gaze Communication Aid with his Support Worker
Scottie is now an expert user of the Eye Gaze technology even mastering asking Yooralla staff for his favourite drink!

Scottie, a Yooralla resident in Box Hill, has limited speech and movement in his arms and legs due to his cerebral palsy, so he communicates through Eye Gaze Communication Aid technology (an eye-operated communication device).

Several years ago, Scottie’s Dutch-made Communication Aid broke and couldn’t be replaced due to it being an outdated model.

Senior Speech Pathologist, Alastair McRae spent many hours over several months calling and completing forms for the NDIS to acquire a new Communication Aid for Scottie. Earlier this year, after much time and effort from Alastair and Scottie’s Occupational Therapists, David Harraway and Li Li, and his Support Co-ordinator, Gary, Scottie eventually received a new Grid Pad Eye with Intelligaze from the NDIS.  Alastair worked closely with Scottie using a personalised Grid set with the Communication software Grid 3. Within a few minutes, Scottie was able to communicate through his new Aid.

Scottie is now an expert user of the Eye Gaze technology. He is now able to turn his TV on and off (and adjust the volume), turn his heater on and off in his room and even ask Yooralla staff for his favourite drink!

Scottie’s story is ultimately one with an incredibly positive outcome that highlights not only the power of assistive technology in helping transform clients’ lives, but also the vast impact that the expertise and tenacity of Yooralla’s Allied Health team have on improving client’s choice and control. It also raises awareness of the powerful work of Yooralla’s collaborative Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy teams and referral services that can help transform people’s lives. On the flip side, his story also reveals the challenges clients and staff can face with navigating the NDIS. It is Yooralla’s priority that Scottie benefits from more support from a Speech Pathologist and Occupational Therapist in his next NDIS plan to meet his communication goals.

Alastair talks about his role working with Scottie as a Speech Pathologist and how Scottie’s new Eye Gaze Communication Aid has increased his independence.

How long have you worked with Scottie?

I have worked with Scottie for about 10 months since August 2021. Scottie was referred to Yooralla’s Allied Health team for support with Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).

Can you share your involvement as a Speech Therapist in the process of assisting Scottie with his new Eye Gaze Communication Aid?

I met with Scottie in August 2021 and was informed of his situation with communication devices. Scottie previously had a device which had broken down several years ago and was unfortunately not replaced. Scottie is an expert AAC user and very proficient with Eye Gaze. Eye Gaze is a means of accessing AAC where the person uses their eyes as a mouse. It is difficult to use and requires lots of practice to master.

Scottie and I immediately got to work on acquiring a new Eye Gaze device for him to use. Scottie outlined his communication goals and we got in touch with Zyteq to set up a trial of the device. When we finished the trial, an Assistive Technology Assessment Report was submitted to the NDIS to purchase a Grid Pad Eye. This application was submitted in November 2021.

It took us many emails, phone calls, resubmission of the application (due to the quote going out of date) and a Light Touch Plan Review to have Scottie’s device funded. It arrived the second week of May 2022.

Did you have any surprises in the how quickly Scottie has learnt to use his new Eye Gaze Communication Aid?

Eye Gaze usually takes a period of adjustment and lots of practice. Scottie hadn’t used an Eye Gaze device, besides the trial, for a number of years so I didn’t expect much. Dave (from ComTEC), Li Li (Scottie’s OT) and I met with him to set up a mounting system and as soon as the device was set up, he could use it. Scottie is an incredible Eye Gaze user and made immediate progress on his communication goals. Scottie wanted to be able to carry out tasks on his own and ask staff for a drink which he can now do too.

What are the most rewarding aspects of working as a Speech Pathologist?

Working with a client like Scottie is so rewarding because we can achieve so much positive change. He is now able to achieve his communication goals, turn his TV on, listen to the radio independently and to have a voice in his own life. He is less reliant on another person communicating for him, because he can communicate his needs more independently. Being able to champion communication for our clients is a fantastic feeling.

Any tips for aspiring Speech Pathologists who want to re-enter the profession through the Return to Practice program at Yooralla after taking time out from their career?

Take part in Yooralla’s Return to Practice Program, read up about AAC. Be a communication champion!

Looking for job opportunities in Speech Pathology?

Looking for job opportunities in Speech Pathology?

Join Yooralla and work as part of a positive and passionate team with more than 100 years’ history empowering people with disability to achieve their goals.

Yooralla currently has several Full Time and Part Time Speech Pathology roles available at various locations.

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