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Device opens up new world of communication for Bailey

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Opening communications...

By Stephen Thomas

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - Imagine a lifetime without being able to use your voice.

“She’s gone 39 years without really expressing her feelings,” Janie Rummage said of her sister, Sharon Bailey. “Now she can. She’s excited. She’s not as frustrated anymore.”

Bailey was born with cerebral palsy, a physical condition affecting movement and speech. That’s what made her available for her new life tool, the Vintage Lite East Start computer box.

According to Rummage, Bailey qualified for the box through Medicaid and Medicare coverage.

Both Bailey and Rummage were introduced to the new box in January. The box includes a touch screen and can be programmed to say words and phrases.

Allison Amshoff, a speech language pathologist with Spalding University in Louisville, offered an initial overview of the system at Just Family Adult Day Center in Shepherdsville, where Bailey is a client.

Just Family employees were also introduced to the box, including administrator Theresa Stinnett. She said the box has already made an improvement in Bailey’s everyday life.

“It’s gone wonderfully and the box is really helping her out,” said Stinnett. “All of our names have been programmed in to get our attention. Now she can specify who she is addressing.”

The touch screen can display up to 15 icon buttons at a time. Bailey is able to select one that will specify a word or phrase, or lead to other word and phrase choices.

“She could always spell words,” Rummage said. “Now she can touch them and spell them with the box.”

In the past Bailey and Rummage worked out many communication signs. The cerebral palsy limited Bailey’s range, however.

“This has opened up a new world for her,” said Rummage. “Now she’s comfortable in communicating with anybody.”

Stinnett said Bailey’s big moment at Just Family occurred when she was able to ask, through her box, for a strawberry milkshake.

“We take for granted that we can say all that we can,” said Stinnett. “Finally Sharon can do that.”

Stinnett said the box made Bailey even happier than usual. She also realizes how intellectual Bailey is.

“Unfortunately, as caregivers, we all underestimate folks if they are non-verbal, but Sharon has learned to use the box in a pretty advanced way in a short period of time,” Stinnett said. “She’s putting together pretty elaborate sentences.”

Rummage said the box is still being implemented at an early stage. As time goes on, more words and phrases, including very specific details, can be programmed for Bailey’s use.

“We’ve programmed in her birthday, her hobbies, that she lives with her sister,” said Rummage. “She can basically tell her life history. We haven’t even touched on what the computer can do.”

Stinnett joked that Bailey’s favorite button gets pushed around 1 p.m., with the box announcing, “I want to watch Days.” That’s when Bailey’s favorite soap opera, “Days of our Lives,” comes on.

Rummage said Bailey took to her new box immediately and always keeps it with her, constantly practicing at home.

“She loves the board,” Rummage said. “It’s enjoyment to her. It is fulfilling for her to communicate with us.”

At Just Family, the staff is pleased to have Bailey communicate in a more direct and specific manner.

“I can’t hardly express the difference that it makes,” Stinnett said. “It’s wonderful to hear your name said. It’s like music to your ears to hear her thoughts.”

Just Family Adult Day Center provides medical model supervision services for the elderly and adult handicapped citizens. The program includes catered meals, field trips and activities such as movies and bowling. For more information call 543-1265, visit www.justfamily.com, or search “Just Family” on Facebook.