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Communication technology opens up new world

Luke lives in a house in the South West of England and has been supported by Brandon since 1994. He has complex needs which means he needs a high level of care and support and is unable to speak.

Luke has been communicating with his family and support workers via Key Word Signing. In late 2019, Chris, who is a key member of Luke’s support team, was playing some games on a computer with Luke and noticed that his eyes seemed to be following the picture game along. So, a plan was hatched to trial Eye Gaze technology.

When your world becomes smaller

As Luke’s health is vulnerable, visits and activities were heavily restricted by the national lockdown in March 2020. It had an impact on Luke and his happiness – and that's when Eye Gaze came into its own.

Inspired by the way Luke’s eyes were moving, Chris brought his own gaming Eye Gaze with him on a shift. He contacted a software supplier and agreed a six-week trial. The team also involved Luke’s Speech and Language Team. Since then, Luke and his family have invested in a new tablet which enables Eye Gaze.

Chris describes the journey: “We started with games, pattern-based ones. It was clear he was controlling that well – acing it in fact – so we moved on to pictures and photos. We have small selections such as different drinks or activities and for the first time, Luke can make proactive choices rather than us signing and perhaps missing something off.”

Getting to know Luke

The whole team has noticed Luke’s personality come out more since he has been using Eye Gaze regularly. He has quite the sense of humour and will think nothing of asking for a drink then changing his mind with a sparkle in his eye.

Chris explained: "Now, if Luke wants a cup of tea he can use his Eye Gaze to tell us rather than rely on us offering. It empowers him to live freely and make choices.

“We’ve tested it too, and Luke to some degree! We moved the options around, so we knew he was actually engaged and making choices.”

Opening up new ways to be independent

One of Luke’s favourite activities is his bubble machine. It has different settings and previously, one of Luke’s support workers would have set the bubbles and watched Luke’s reactions and body language to decide how long they used the bubbles. Now Luke has a bubble page on his Eye Gaze and he can now ask to get the bubble machine out himself.

Because Luke’s regular visits had to stop and he was shielding at home, his world changed and it took a while for him to adjust. The Eye Gaze has had a huge positive impact.

Chris said: “Using Eye Gaze has opened up a window on a whole new world for Luke. We might have been locked-in but in many ways during lockdown, Luke’s world opened up.”

When Luke knew he could go outside again he went on his Eye Gaze, but bypassed all his favourites, immediately indicating that he wanted to go outside.

Family connections

Luke’s dad came to visit once the initial lockdown restrictions had been lifted (following guidance). Luke had his Eye Gaze on and went straight to his feelings page to tell his dad that he was happy. It is clear that the technology and inspiration from the team has revealed a whole new world to Luke and has helped him make new connections with his family for the first time.

The next challenge is for Luke to call his mum and dad via Skype and use his Eye Gaze.

Donate to help others use Eye Gaze technology

Your donation could help more people like Luke. Not everyone can afford an Eye Gaze on their own and a donation to our Dream Fund could provider crucial adaptive technology to help more people across Brandon. Donate today and help more people communicate with their loved ones.