Talk Is Not Cheap

“I dreaded the moment when we would have to return the computer… It just was not an option!”

Seven-year-old Shai Chayat suffers from a rare syndrome known as Marshal Smith, which prevents her from communicating through normal speech. Over the last year, Shai began to “speak” through a special augmentative communication computer that enables her to form sentences, express herself and make contact with those around her.

Shai’s parents, Irit and Danny, borrowed the device that costs close to $5,500 from Ezer Mizion’s unique VOCA (Voice Output Communication Aids) Lending Center. VOCA is one of the many divisions of Ezer Mizion, one of Israel’s major organizations assisting the ill, the handicapped, the elderly in Israel.

When the end of the loan period approached, the Chayats knew they would have to return the device, for the benefit of many others awaiting their turn. Some families, at this point, pay for, or raise, the funds to purchase their own equipment, having determined by using the loaned item that this particular model will work for them. The Chayats were unable to do either.

“The tremendous change the computer made in Shai’s life is unbelievable… We could not accept the thought that Shai would have to manage without the computer. It just wasn’t an option.” But only a limited number of this particular device was available at Ezer Mizion and…time was up.

The devastation of Ezer Mizion staff nearly matched that of Shai’s parents. “If only more equipment were available, other options would exist but, as it stands…” the staff member could hardly bring herself to say the next words.  

Shai’s story had a happy ending: The school she attends sent an article about her plight to an American philanthropist. He was so touched by the thought that without the computer, Shai would not be able to say, “I want Grandma,” that he decided to cover the entire expense of a personal computer for her use.

But what about all the other children – and adults – like Shai?

Young children who cannot develop properly. Teens and adults cut off from the satisfaction of communicating with peers, imprisoned in their loneliness. What about all of these?

Today, the trend in augmentative communication is towards less costly, user-friendly iPad devices, which can be programmed with exciting, auditory feedback programs that open new horizons for the speech-disabled. The programs use instant gratification methods and a combination of audio and visual stimuli to rivet the children’s attention and advance their communication by giant leaps. 

For child or adult, Ezer Mizion’s VOCA equipment is like creating a window in a hitherto dark cave.  He has so much to say. His ideas, his opinions have been chasing themselves inside his mind. Trapped.  With the program, his thoughts have somewhere to go. He can connect. And the first thought many want to express is Thank You. Thank you, all of you, for enabling me to join the world.

Many inborn conditions prevent speech from developing. Stroke, trauma and various medical conditions can destroy the ability to speak in an older child or adult. A major component of autism is the impeded ability to communicate. However, even the autistic can be helped by use of Ezer Mizion’s VOCA devices.  For further info on how the ipad can assist the autistic, view video:


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