Five-year-old boy from Bath given the gift of a voice this Christmas
This Christmas little William Clarkson has received the best gift ever – a voice that allows him to tell his family he loves them.
The five-year-old from Bath has a severe form of cerebral palsy, leaving him unable to walk or talk.
But now, thanks to the gift of a special computer from Sirona Care and Health, William can communicate with his family and classmates at Three Ways School.
In a poignant moment his mum Claire and dad Simon feared would never happen, his first words were “I love my family”.
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Claire said: “I have always had a feeling that he knew more than he could tell us and that he understood what I was saying, and this has proved it.
“I hope that this is going to transform his life and ours. We will no longer be guessing what he wants. He will be able to tell us.
“One of the first things he said via the computer was that he’d had a sore throat.
“He is an amazing little boy who has been given a wonderful opportunity to learn to express himself.”
The Eye Gaze system is used by people all over the country, but William is one of the youngest.
It contains picture symbols and is operated by the gaze of his eyes.
William looks at the picture of what he wants to say, which is then spoken by a computer voice, allowing him to say what he wants to eat, drink, do, or what he feels.
Sirona speech and language therapist Vicky Millgate has been working with William to help him get used to the equipment.
She said: “William has been unable to accurately show us what he knows inside his head as he has no way of telling us.
“He has communicated in the past through using picture symbols which he looks at to make choices.
“This however has been limiting for William and there has always been a feeling that he knows so much more than he is able to tell us.
“William is an incredibly determined little boy with an amazing personality and we wanted to try ways to help him express himself.
“After getting to know William and seeing how determined he was, I decided to assess his abilities in using eye gaze to control a computer. This essentially means that he can use his eyes to control a computer.
“It’s not a piece of equipment that’s suitable for all and William had to be rigorously assessed but he loved using it from the start.”
To get him used to the equipment they started playing games, and William particularly enjoyed racing cars around a track, and matching cards with pictures on.
His new favourite game is Simon Says, which he plays with his family, including nine-year-old brother Daniel.
Vicky said: “William becomes the teacher and sits in front of the class making us all do silly things.
“It’s such a pleasure to see the look on his face and his cheeky personality finally expressed through words.
“The possibilities for the future for William are great. He will learn to communicate with us to the best of his ability and the computer could even be set up to control the TV, turn his lights on and off and close the curtains in a specially adapted house.
“With the advances in technology for William he will be able to reach his full potential and show us all he knows.”
Claire is hopeful for William’s future, and said the whole family was grateful for the support he had been given.
She said: “This is just the start of a long journey to learn to communicate but we are really grateful he has been given the chance.
“One day we very much hope that William will be able to say thank you himself.”