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A teen with cerebral palsy who had never been able to say more than “yes” or “no” was presented with a special cerebral palsy device Wednesday. When Alin Cortez touches the screen on her new English- and Spanish-speaking instrument, it emanates pre-recorded phrases, allowing her to communicate more effectively than she ever could before.
Minutes after receiving the device, she touched at the screen and a voice announced, “Por favor, comer.” Alin wanted cake.
This was just the beginning for Alin. Over the coming months, she will get more adept at using the device, and slowly, the personality that shone through in her demeanor and smile would be more fully revealed.
Those close to her had often witnessed the widening of Alin's eyes, and her antsy body language that displayed a yearning to add to the conversation, but it sometimes took weeks for her listeners to figure out what she was trying to communicate.
One time, Alin requested a poster of a celebrity, and her family searched stores for weeks looking for the right one because she couldn't explain which celebrity she wanted.
“Now her life is going to be easier,” said Laura Cortez, Alin's mother, communicating through a translator. “Now our life is going to be easier.”
“You can't imagine what this is like for somebody who can't speak, to suddenly have a voice,” said Myrna Pool, who helped develop the machine.
The cerebral palsy device, built by Prentke Romich Co., was awarded to Alin in honor of the company's 40 th anniversary. It was one of 40 Prentke Romich awarded to speech-impaired recipients around the world.
The touch-screen displays sentences and images that can be touched to produce pre-recorded words and phrases. She will get to choose whose voice she'd like to have programmed into the device to be the voice of her thoughts.
Unlike some of the other machines she has used at school, this one will be permanently mounted on her wheelchair.
“The biggest advance will be she can initiate [communication] when and where she wants with whom she wants,” said one of Alin's speech therapists, Mark Perry.
Contact a cerebral palsy lawyer who can determine if a cerebral palsy patient is entitled to receive compensation to help pay for treatment and/or assistive devices.