"If only she could tell us what she is thinking ..."
We urgently need your support to help people with disabilities who struggle to express themselves. This struggle can lead to everything from loneliness to difficult behaviors to medical emergencies or worse.
But there is something you can do to help.
Will you make a gift today to help people with disabilities express their passions and preferences? CONTINUE READING HOW WE USE ANSWER BUZZERS TO HELP AMBER AND HER FRIENDS EXPRESS THEMSELVES >>
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If you can’t communicate, every day that goes by is another day you are isolated from your family, another day you can’t tell your caregivers that you have a headache or that you are scared. You may become frustrated. You may feel isolated. You may become very angry.
Pomeroy participants get help expressing themselves in our Expanded Adaptive Communication Program – but that’s a mouthful, so let’s just call it “Heart to Heart” for now! Will you make a gift today to help our clients to tell their friends and family what they need and how they feel?
Amber is a smart and friendly 20-year-old with cerebral palsy. You would find her very engaging if you met her. Amber was born at just 24 weeks and clearly had a disability from the beginning.
When Amber was about four years old, her parents asked for a cognitive assessment at their home. Her mom, Mary Ann, recalls the therapist asking Amber, “Do you want to go play outside or stay inside?”
This was a typically chilly San Francisco day. After casting her gaze out the window at the fog blowing by, the young Amber looked back at the therapist with an expression that said, “You’re kidding, right?” Mary Ann laughs, saying, “That’s when we knew that she could understand everything we were saying!”
But while Amber can understand you when you talk to her, she cannot reply. She can vocalize a little bit, but cannot say words. “We tried to train her to say ‘yah’ or ‘nah,’ but it didn’t happen,” says Mary Ann.
She can move her arms up and down, but can’t do fine motor tasks. And after a seizure four years ago, her range of motion in her left arm got even smaller.
Her parents go totally “low tech” when giving her choices at home. Mary Ann says, “I will hold up two shirts and say, ‘Which one do you want to wear today?’ Then, if she reaches for one, I will put it under her hand to make sure – and then she grabs it.”
When Mary Ann is driving Amber somewhere in the car, especially after dark, they have an agreement. Mary Ann asks something (like “Should I keep the radio on this station?”), Amber makes a sound for “yes” and is silent for “no.”
Like any parent would be, Mary Ann is worried about what the future holds for Amber without better communication tools. “If she could only tell us what she was thinking…” she says.
San Francisco kids like Amber get some of the services they need from the school district. Amber went to Francis Scott Key Elementary, Aptos Middle School, and is currently in Mission High School’s transition program - Amber will graduate next year.. Throughout, she has had access to some basic technology to help her communicate, but never has this technology been customized for her.
Amber has been coming to Pomeroy after school since she was 12 years old. Here she has played, learned, and had fun with dozens of her peers in a setting designed for her.
And now, with “Heart to Heart,” Pomeroy’s expanded adaptive communication program, Amber and her friends will get to move beyond the world of “yes” and “no.” It will take time, but there will be astonishing breakthroughs. And it will take money, too - our fundraising goal for this fall is $75,000.
Think about the number of choices you make every day – about when to wake up, what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, which route to take to work, when to eat your lunch, when to text a friend, and on and on. How would you feel if all those choices had to be made for you, simply because you couldn’t tell anyone what you wanted?
In Amber’s Heart to Heart class, they use large colorful Answer Buzzers to give students choices - picture big game show buttons in primary colors. A word or message is recorded into the buzzer, and pressing the button plays it back.
In one class, the choice was a ball or blue “Orbeez,” squishy beads that are fun to play with. Putting two big colorful buzzers on the tray in front of Amber, staff gave her the choice of “Ball? Or Orbeez?” It took a little while. Amber’s gaze was directed way up to a corner of the ceiling.
Slowly her eyes moved down to the two buzzers, one with a picture of a ball, another with Orbeez. She seemed reluctant. Her hand moved a little.
Then she hit the Orbeez buzzer. “Orbeez!” it announced. Right away, staff put the basin of Orbeez in her lap and plunged her hand into the squishy, slippery beads. Amber cracked up laughing. She got it.
Then, to be sure this choice was no accident, staff switched the order of the buzzers. There was a pause while we waited.
Amber again chose the Orbeez without hesitation.
This seems small, but it is huge. Obviously, Amber’s future choices might be about more important things: which classes she wants to take, where she would like to take her date out for dinner. She will be able to do all this if you give her the right tools.
Will you help Amber and her friends experience the world-opening power of choice? Your gift will help us buy more tools like these - Answer Buzzers are just the beginning.
Your gift will not only support Heart to Heart, but also will help in many other ways. We work with individuals with a wide range of disabilities and your generosity allows us to help them all.
We know you care about people with disabilities and want to solve the serious problems of social isolation and challenging behaviors.
Chief Executive Officer
P.S. Rush your gift today so Amber and her friends don’t have to wait another day to express themselves!
Do communication barriers threaten
Amber’s health and safety?
One day Amber came home in a terrible mood. Mary Ann says, “She was being very whiny during dinner and I thought maybe she didn’t like the music that was playing.” Changing the music didn’t help. It wasn’t until Mary Ann got her ready for her shower that night that she saw Amber had a string of red and painful bug bites on her right upper arm! She had been itchy and in pain and had no way to tell Mary Ann. This kind of thing worries Mary Ann terribly. “It makes me sad and angry that insects were biting her and no one knew – and she could not scream for help!”