Faced with the burden of not being able to communicate verbally or even physically leaves children feeling helpless and often, alone. Many only being able to nod a simple yes or no in response to questions asked. Eagle Eyes is the revolutionary technology allowing these children to communicate for the first time in their lives.
Volunteering with Eagle Eyes
While volunteering with the Eagle Eyes program last year, Alex fell in love with a couple of the students. He watched these students progress from keeping their eyes lowered and ignoring people, a result of an inability to communicate, to smiling at him when he walked in the room. Watching their eyes light up as they experienced the ability to communicate for the first time in their lives was incredible. The joy it brought him made him want to share this experience with everyone.
Tammy communicates for the first time
One of Alex’s favorite students was Tammy. Alex shares, “She’s a wonderful girl. I believe she’s around high school age or middle school age. She suffers from a disease that keeps her confined to a wheelchair and unable to interact. I want to tell you about my experience with her.”
He continues, “It started out with me going and interacting with these students one-on-one and then slowly introducing the technology. As they became comfortable with it and understood how it worked we would run them through a couple different programs. First, it was just Microsoft Paint and things like that. Then, we would move on to different brain games to get some brain activity going. What’s really exciting about this is that through all of the different activities that we were able to interact with and learn and grow with each other with, you start to see a change in these students.
Trying not to get too emotional, Alex explains the change he saw in Tammy from the first meeting to his last. “[At first] what I saw, was a girl who was not able to interact or express herself. She would not acknowledge you when you walked in the room. [After using Eagle Eyes] she started developing intentional movement and when you walked in the room, she smiled! She lights up and she’s emotive and expressive. I truly believe that through the [Eagle Eyes] program, that I’ve been a part of, these students are able to learn and reach out to their community and their fellow peers. Which is something they’ve never been able to do before.”
What is “Eagle Eyes?”
As a high school senior, Alex got involved with the Eagle Eyes program as part of his leadership team. Eagle Eyes is under the umbrella of the Opportunity Foundation. Starting out as a regular volunteer, he quickly got excited about the project and became more deeply involved.
He describes the technology, saying, “We use different brain signals that allow people/students to control and interact with the computer. Originally it started as a fun research, experimental project. But quickly, they realized the potential. So, now, it’s grown and developed into this program where we attach these electrodes and sensors to students who are typically quadriplegic and not able to communicate using any of their limbs or their speaking.”
“With this new technology they are able to use their mind and their eyes to interact with the computer and provide input to the outside world that they weren’t able to before.”
From the Eagle Eyes Website:
“EagleEyes is for individuals who have little to no muscular control but have control of their eye movement. Some of the diagnosis in this category are Rett Syndrome, Spinal Muscular Atrophy and severe Cerebral Palsy, Trisomy and Hydranencephaly.
“With the use of EagleEyes individuals have been able to establish cause and effect and act independently of anyone assisting them for the first time.
“EagleEyes is an innovative technology developed at Boston College that acts as a mouse replacement system that enables communication and learning primarily for individuals who have congenital severe special needs. These individuals are most often non-verbal, paralyzed, and at most have a “Yes/No” method of communicating with those around them. Generally EagleEyes is used with individuals whose only controlled muscular movement is their eyes.
“EagleEyes is used for cause and effect, recreation, communication and education, helping to reveal a user’s true intelligence, focus and eye strength training, and learning to use the eyes for communicating.
Alex shares his story
Alex currently studies music at Utah State University, yet his experience with Eagle Eyes took place last year as a high school Senior at Jordan High.
Please contact Debbie Inkley at Eagle Eyes with any questions about getting involved.