Posts Tagged ‘speech impaired’

Momentous Conference on AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication)

May 24, 2017

pr voca AAC conf 4 17 fEzer Mizion, a leader in the field of Alternative and Augmentative Communication, recently hosted a major conference whose purpose was to bring the latest innovations to both professionals and family members. The plight of those who were never given or who have lost their ability to speak has long been on Ezer Mizion radar.

One cannot imagine the anguish of an intelligent, hitherto productive adult with opinions of many subjects who is forced to remain silent as discussions take place around him. His dignity is further reduced when obliged to accept as his daily needs what others provide for him, unable to make his basic wants known.

For a child, the situation is even worse as speech is a vital element in his development. His IQ is hampered in its maturation due to lack of communication with those around him.

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Presenting the Latest on Communication Devices and Methods

Ezer Mizion AAC professionals have done much research and have been on the cutting edge of each new advancement. The conference was purported to share this knowledge with conference participants  which included speech and language practitioners, OT’s, others in the field of language and communication from schools, speech clinics and medical centers all over Israel  in addition to key leadership from Bituach Leumi (Israel’s Health Insurance). World class clinicians and technical developers  in the field of augmentative communication sat alongside end-users and their families each gleaning new concepts that will give a voice to those who cannot speak.

Watch Martin ‘speak’ at the event

 

MK Litzman, Israel’s Minister of Health, addressed the conference expressing the Israel government’s satisfaction in being part of Ezer Mizion’s endeavor to make communication accessible to all members of the population.

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Excellent Communication without Normative Speech

Conference keynote speaker was Dr. Melanie Fried-Oken, who is a certified speech-language pathologist, a professor of neurology, pediatrics, biomedical engineering and otolaryngology (ENT) and an adjunct professor in the Communication Disorders and Sciences Department at Portland State University.

Dr. Oken’s clinical area of focus is augmentative and alternative communication. She has been serving adults with communication disorders since 1979. When not in clinic, Dr. Fried-Oken leads an active federally-funded research team that explores technology, new interventions, and patient-centered outcomes for individuals with significant communication impairments and their families.

Dr. Oken inspired everyone with her groundbreaking research and innovations in the field of AAC, working closely with hi-tech developers on AAC solutions for people with communication impairments.

The conference achieved its goal of raising awareness among AAC professionals regarding innovations in the field and options available for high tech AAC solutions and how to access them. Many of the professionals are committing to the series of lectures that Ezer Mizion will be giving in coming months on AAC related topics which will further enrich the professional world and ultimately people for whom speech and communication is a constant challenge.

Enable access to hi-tech communication devices to more of the speech impaired!

 

Yeshiva Invites Their CP Friends for Shabbos

May 11, 2016

pr spec CP Yeshiva Shabbaton-ok Shaindy- 12321367_623353854484221_8551078663630228239_nShabbos is always special but recently Shabbos in Yeshivas Birkat Moshe was extra special. Extremely grateful for the gifts Hashem has given them, they have decided to share those gifts with Hashem’s special children. For the second time, they have invited the members of Ezer Mizion’s Matan Club for Young Adults with Special Needs to join them for a Shabbos. With maturity that belied their years, the Yeshiva students took complete responsibility for every detail. Each Ezer Mizion boy was assigned a dorm room where he roomed with Yeshiva students, sharing their conversation, their thoughts, their jokes. For an intelligent but speech-impaired, wheelchair-bound young man afflicted with CP, this alone was a heavenly taste of normalcy.  But there was so much more. The Ezer Mizion boys joined the Yeshiva boys at the Shabbos meals where their physical needs were cared for with sensitivity and respect as each boy was helped to eat the delicious Shabbos food. The singing was super-enthusiastic with the arms of the Yeshiva boys around the shoulders of their guests as they swayed together to the timeless Shabbos songs. The Ezer Mizion boys- who learn Torah regularly at their Ezer Mizion groups- felt right at home listening to the insightful Torah thoughts. It brought home the concept that the Torah belongs to every Jew, regardless of the tools he has been given in this world.

 

Davening was another challenge but the yeshiva students met it with aplomb. The Ezer Mizion guests were not relegated to the ‘audience’ but, instead, became an integral part of the Torah Reading. A Yeshiva student removed the Sefer Torah from the Aron Hakodesh and gave it to a wheelchair-bound Ezer Mizion boy to hold. Both boy- his face aglow-  and Sefer Torah were then wheeled to the bima where the Torah was lifted to its proper place. As is commonly done in all shuls, a guest is given an Aliyah. This simple procedure was far from simple on this memorable Shabbos but difficult logistics would not hold back these determined yeshiva students. Two Ezer Mizion guests were called up together. One was able to speak and make the bracha ‘for both of them’. When the Aliyah was completed, a spirited- as only Yeshiva bachurim know how to do-  Misheberech was made for the two. And so it went. The joy on the faces of the Ezer Mizion guests was matched only by the joy on the faces of the givers.

 

The Shabbaton was attended by the Ezer Mizion counselors and their families who could not hold back their tears in witnessing such an uplifting Shabbos. They understood that their charges will now return to their learning and activities at Ezer Mizion with renewed strength, feeling themselves to be a fundamental part of the Jewish Nation.

 

Google Chooses Ezer Mizion

April 18, 2016

Google.org has announced the allocation of grants to promote technological innovations that will make the world more accessible and focus on solutions for people with disabilities.

Ezer Mizion was chosen by Google for its project with Click2speak, an Israeli start-up, to develop an on-screen eye-tracking operated keyboard that will enable people with high cognitive function and limited mobility to communicate and control their environment.#GoogleImpactChallenge

Google.org project head Brigitte Hoyer Gosselink wrote: “At Google.org, we support organizations that offer innovative solutions to complex challenges. We’re thrilled to back Ezer Mizion as they help build a world that works for everyone.”

THE PLAN

To develop a virtual, onscreen keyboard operated by eye tracking for people with limited mobility and high cognitive function, enabling them to communicate and control their environment

 

THE PROBLEM

In the U.S. alone, 7.5 million people have trouble using their voices

Many of them also have impaired motor skills and are unable to manage a standard keyboard and benefit from alternative communication options. For them, effective communication is a serious struggle. And since currently available communication technology is both unaffordable and needlessly restrictive, many users have difficulty maintaining personal relationships, independent function and professional productivity.

 

THE SOLUTION

Develop an eye tracking operated keyboard

With a generous grant from Google.org, Ezer Mizion is working with Click2Speak to pilot an on-screen keyboard operated by eye-tracking. Development is based on user feedback and feature requests and will include support for additional languages, platforms, and input devices.

 

THE IMPACT

Facilitate communication with the best-in-class eye-tracking/mouse replacement software

With an affordable, multi-lingual, and easy-to-use on-screen keyboard, users with impaired motor skills and high cognitive ability can communicate easily and benefit from add-on features that enable them to control their environment.

 

 

Introducing Gal Sont, Chief Technology Officer, Click2Speak

Gal holds a Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.Sc.) in Mathematics and Computer Science. He has been involved in delivering complex solutions in growing technology organizations, as well as running and establishing the development activities and operations of several companies across international markets.

Gal bring years of extensive experience spearheading the development processes for robust software products in various fields such as E-Learning, social sports websites, online travel, and Big Data.

Gal, married and father to two young daughters, was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2009. Before Gal was diagnosed with the disease, he competed in off road Enduro motorbike races, snowboarding, kite surfing, off road adventure – an adrenaline junkie!

Today his adrenaline rush comes from a different source – he wants to help disabled people in any way he can, starting by writing code that will improve their quality of life. Gal has been programming (mostly using his eyes due to his illness) the ultimate user-friendly, on-screen virtual keyboard for the benefit of disabled individuals who are cognitively competent but cannot use their voices for communicating or manage a manually operated keyboard. The Click2Speak keyboard is controlled by eye tracking and eye-operated communication and control system and features the world’s most advanced Swiftkey prediction engine which leverages its efficiency.

Click2Speak power user: Reuven Kagan

Reuven Kagan is 73 years old, married and father to six children, lives in Israel. Reuven suffers from ALS. He is one of Click2Speak’s power users, relying on Click2Speak for his everyday communication needs and for typing in Hebrew and French. Reuven sends invaluable feedback to the Click2Speak team on a regular basis.

Reuven loves Click2Speak and says: “This amazing product has allowed me to keep working. You have done a great thing for people in my condition.” Reuven is a professional translator and works in translating books from Hebrew to French, using the Click2Speak virtual keyboard for his work!

Reuven first learned about Click2Speak’s software through working closely with Debbie Bental from the Ezer Mizion Augmentative and Alternative Communication Loan Center team, who recommended trying Click2Speak as a communication option.

Debbie says that Click2Speak has made Reuven’s work much more efficient and that he physically tires much less. Reuven is set up with BJoy Ring as a mouse emulator, turning the joystick of his wheelchair into the mouse to control the computer and use Click2Speak’s on-screen keyboard.

For further info: http://www.ezermizion.org

Talk Is Not Cheap

April 25, 2012

“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: http://www.ezermizion.org/News/1299.htm

Giving A Voice to Those That Cannot Speak

March 16, 2011

Ezer Mizion: Giving A Voice to Those That Cannot Speak

Speech therapists from all over Israel participated in a three day conference coordinated and hosted by Ezer Mizion’s VOCA (Voice Output Communication Aids) “Omer Center” on the topic of Alternative and Augmentative Communication.
Ezer Mizion’s VOCA Omer Center provides an invaluable service by evaluating needs and capabilities of people with challenges in the areas of verbal communication, comprehension and accessibility.
The Center expands the knowledge of professionals in the field, and – most importantly – strives to provide every person with tools to communicate with those around him and fulfill a basic human need.
The VOCA Omer Center performs comprehensive and sophisticated evaluations for children and adults with congenital or acquired deficits in the area of expressive and receptive speech and computer accessibility.
At a national convention for speech therapists, the head of the Center, Ms. Yonit Hagoel-Karnieli, gave a fascinating talk on the subject of alternative communication. In the wake of that speech, many of the clinicians from the audience expressed interest in a more intensive treatment of the topic.
As a result, speech therapists at the Omer Center headed by Hagoel-Karnieli put together a three day conference at Ezer Mizion. Among the topics discussed at the workshop: Expanding and deepening knowledge about alternative communication, detailed explanations of the speech generating (VOCA) devices and talking computers employed for this purpose, the needs being met, the target populations, different types of alternative communication devices, new innovations in the field, strategies, work approaches, and more.
Lectures at the workshop were delivered by speech therapists Dr. Goody Wein, Ms. Yedida Levin, and Ms. Sharon Shachar, as well as Tzofit Elbak, a special education teacher, and Yonit Hagoel-Karnieli, head of the Center.
Tens of thousands of adults and children in Israel struggle with severe speech limitations. Throughout the world, augmentative and alternative communication is an accepted therapeutic tool for people suffering from severe speech limitations due to cerebral palsy, developmental delay, autism, strokes, brain tumors, major accidents, and more.
In order to help people with these handicaps, a variety of devices and communication computers have been developed. These serve as superior communication aids for communication challenged people and often constitute their only way of verbally connecting with those around them.
These devices give the user ability to communicate at the touch of a button (or, at times, even through a focused glance) and enable him to “vocalize” pre-recorded messages or phrases typed into the device.
In view of the tremendous success of the conference, additional workshops are planned for professionals on the topic of speech generating devices and communication techniques and strategies.
for further info: ezermizion.org