Technology opens door to good chat

Zakary Sorensen attended Camp Have A Chat last week to develop his communication skills.
Zakary Sorensen attended Camp Have A Chat last week to develop his communication skills. Contributed

THE gift of speech is something that can be easily taken for granted but for some people a single sentence can be a struggle.

Teenager Zakary Sorensen last week attended his sixth Camp Have a Chat event, which is designed to help students with cerebral palsy communicate more effectively.

Zakary uses a device called a Pathfinder to increase his communication abilities.

The device allows people to program words into a computer and then use them by touching icons.

Mum Margaret said using the device was like "learning another language" and could take a lot of practice to master.

While the teen is able to speak to a certain degree, it can be a struggle for Zakary to be understood by those he talks to.

"Zakary himself did start to get speech in grade 1 and 2 and started talking more and more," she said.

"He is able to communicate a fair bit and most people can understand him.

"But some people just think they can't understand and don't even try to understand him."

Mrs Sorensen accompanied her son to Camp Have a Chat at Redland Bay last week and said the devices also opened up communication pathways between Zakary and his friends.

"Now he actually has friends who have talking devices and he is so excited to see them," she said.

"The devices definitely help with his communication and he also took his iPad, which has a smaller speech program installed."

Tech-savvy Zakary is keen to upgrade to the latest Pathfinder model and he also uses Facebook to stay connected with his friends from camp.

The camp is hosted by the Cerebral Palsy League and aims to assist young people with complex communication problems to develop confidence and self-esteem by using new techniques and technologies.

Each year's program revolves around a theme and provides the kids with fun drama and art-based activities and Mrs Sorensen said her son enjoyed the activities in this year's program.

"This year the theme was Generation Z and they spent a lot of time outside, which he loved," she said.

Camp Have A Chat has just celebrated its 10th successful year and has hosted more than 160 kids over the past decade.

Program co-ordinator Meg Hinselwood said campers used signs, symbols, gestures and devices to allow them to say what was on their minds.

"Our goal is for all campers to learn new ways of expressing themselves so they can communicate with confidence and become more active members of the community," she said.

This year's theme of Generation Z was designed to take students through an anthropological tour of what makes and unites a community.

Topics:  cerebral palsy speech technology

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