Despite being nonverbal due to a condition that affects her brain and nervous system functions, Christine has never let that stop her from speaking her mind or making sure her voice is heard.
Since coming to Goodwill in 2007, she has not only found her own voice, but made sure to help others find theirs.
Here’s a look back at Christine’s journey and an update on where she is now!
Ever since Christine can remember, she’s always used devices as her main method of communication. When she was younger she struggled to find the perfect device, one that would allow her to remain connected to family and friends and communicate with them on a daily basis. At the age of six, Christine started using her first device, an “Alpha Talker,” thru Prentke Romich. It was a very basic device, with the alphabet, numbers, words, pictures, phrases, just enough for her to communicate her needs. Her second device was a “Vanguard,” also thru Prentke Romich. As she got older though, and was able to understand more, she was ready to advance to the next level. The Vanguard had more memory and was capable of doing more things.
It wasn’t until 2007, as Christine was completing her final years of high school, that she began overflowing with things she wanted to say – her thoughts, opinions, ideas and dreams. To do this, she was ready for a more technologically advanced device and one that would allow her to access the Internet. Before California Children’s Services and Medical would approve the purchase of a new one, a third party assessment was required. That’s when she was sent to Goodwill of Orange County’s Assistive Technology Exchange Center (ATEC).
Upon her first visit to the Assistive Technology Exchange Center, Christine met with a speech pathologist and rehabilitation engineer to evaluate her individual communication needs and, develop a strategy to get her where she wanted to be. For Christine, she was looking for the right device to help her communicate and stay connected with her peers.
Since that day in 2007, Christine has used an ECO device – the technology device that the Assistive Technology Exchange Center helped her upgrade to.
Christine says, “My ECO not only allows me to speak, it also has Internet which allows me to use Facebook and Instagram, two things that keep me in touch with friends and family.” The device even allows her to pre-program everyday sentences for normal conversations. “It’s quite the device and I would be lost without it,” continued Christine.
During her time visiting the Assistive Technology Exchange Center, she became involved in different programs including the Assistive Technology chat group, mentoring program and even gave presentations at the annual Assessment Training Institute Conference.
For the past two school years, Christine has mentored a small group of students at the same elementary school she once attended. She assisted other students who used various types of communication devices, to help them use their devices more effectively in the classroom.
“I jumped at the chance to do it! It’s something I truly enjoy doing and I like when they use their device to communicate with me,” said Christine about the experience. She’s currently looking for her next mentoring opportunity and can’t wait to start again soon.
Always looking for ways to impact and help others, Christine’s latest endeavor and hope is to see the cost come down for devices like hers so it’s more affordable for families. As it is currently, there is a lot of paperwork and trying to convince insurance companies to approve of payment for a device.
“They don’t realize how important it is for someone who can’t speak to have the ability to communicate,” she says.
Not only is Christine’s voice heard, it is amplified to help encourage, mentor and support others with speech disabilities.