Life goes on. Tuesday is similar to Monday. We know what to expect. And that knowledge brings us security. And then one day, life falls apart. He becomes a stroke victim, lying on a hospital bed. Nothing is the same. Even his body has changed. What he could do easily in his past life now may be impossible. He is trapped in a nightmare and can’t seem to wake up. He needs explanations, he needs reassurance and he needs simple basic needs fulfilled, needs he cannot do on his own. Now, when he needs so much, he is unable to express himself. He tries to tell the nurse that he is thirsty but she doesn’t understand his garbled sounds. His loved ones try so hard but they, too, are unable to communicate. His daughter cries in frustration. She wants so much to help. She tries several possibilities but he continues to ask in his unintelligible speech, becoming more and more upset that he is unable to convey his thoughts and needs with those around him. More than 62% of stroke patients suffer through this demeaning and discouraging challenge. The stress, the anguish greatly hinder the healing process. But he remains at an impasse, unable to move forward.
It is this situation, and so many others, that is addressed by Ezer Mizion’s AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) Division. Many children are born without the ability to speak and many adults, due to accident, stroke or illness, lose their ability to communicate effectively. Ezer Mizion AAC professionals are on the cutting edge of each new advancement and have done much research developing ways and means to give a voice to those who cannot speak.
Yonit Hagoel-Karnieli, who heads Ezer Mizion’s AAC Division, has been asked many times to share her knowledge. It may be a workshop open to the various professionals on the team or a support group for family members. In 2016, Ezer Mizion was chosen by Google for its project with Click2speak, an Israeli start-up, to develop an on-screen eye-tracking operated keyboard that will enable people with high cognitive function and limited mobility to communicate and control their environment. More recently a much- lauded handbook was developed for use in the hospital by family members. Yonit travels the globe, sharing her knowledge for the benefit of others.
This fall she was invited for the second year to lecture to hundreds of professionals at the second International AAC Conference held in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Conference presents contemporary approaches and technologies for children and adults with communication difficulties – cerebral palsy, autism, multiple disabilities, intellectual disabilities, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and other conditions. Her talk was entitled Lets Start at the Very Beginning and provided much food for thought for the attendees. Included in the conference was a workshop during which Yonit discussed AAC for Adults with Acquired Disabilities.
The Center collaborates with communication professionals in Israel and around the world like ISAAC (International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication), with solutions based on cutting edge technology. Its many projects include how-to training films available on-line teaching how to produce and use primary gestures for emerging AAC users. Another vital project is introducing AAC strategies into hospital Intensive Care Units.
Ezer Mizion’s AAC Division Loan Center is the only one of its kind in the Middle East for speech generating devices and one of the few existing in the entire world. It’s mission is not only to support and empower people and families confronted by the distressing reality of communication impairment but also to upgrade communication and therapy options by partnering in the development of communication technology and devices and to educating and influencing those in the professional communication field and end-users to tap in to the most updated AAC solutions.