One of the first things that strikes one upon meeting Tess C. is her gaze, a sure sign she is a happy and highly intelligent lady. This impression only grows the longer one spends time with her. She has a sharp sense of humor, too. When asked to tell a joke, with her Accent 1400 augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device she says, “What did the judge say when the skunk walked in?” “Odor in the court!” Tess’s humor, however, can be much sharper and sophisticated. Tess’s pediatrician had already labeled her “retarded.” Trying to prove his point, the doctor asked Tess which of the three ladies in the room was her mother. Tess directed her gaze toward one of the women. “See?” said the doctor. “She cannot even recognize her own mother.” Then Tess’s sister intervened, saying she pointed to the wrong person to test the doctor in return. At precisely that moment, Tess pointed to the lady who, indeed, was her mother.
Though Tess needs a wheelchair for mobility, that does not stop her from getting around and doing what she loves, such as visiting friends and meeting new people. At Special Olympics, Tess participates in track and field and what she calls the obstacle course. She is friends with a lot of her fellow athletes and coaches. “I have many friends,” she says. In fact, adds Karen Gliniecki, “Tess makes friends wherever she goes.” Karen, a certified speech-language pathologist, is Tess’s Assistive Technology Specialist. Earlier this year, Tess went to a social dance. “I looked like a princess,” she says. At a restaurant she likes, Tess struck up a conversation with her waiter. She has also used her AAC gear to self-advocate at various meetings for what she needs or wants. When she is at home, she can still use her Accent to communicate with friends via e-mail, texting, and posting on Facebook. It was Karen who worked to create what is known as an open system, which means that it is connected to the Internet. This access allows Tess to use the device beyond the home. Beforehand, her only Internet access was via a desktop computer. “Technology has opened many doors for Tess,” says Karen. “It has really opened up Tess’s world.” Tess agrees: “I feel happy with my Accent.”
Tess is not the only person to benefit. “We take care [of each other], especially teaching Mom about the new technology,” adds Karen.
“I enjoy her completely,” says Karen. “I feel we are able to make a difference in Tess’s life. Without this, she would be locked in.”
AAC Assistive Tech Tess