A little girl’s life is being transformed through a miracle machine bought by the generous people of South Holland.
Dakota Read (12), from Weston Hills, has a profound form of cerebral palsy that affects all four limbs. All her life Dakota has been unable to speak or let anyone know what she truly wants ... until now.
A £5,600 eye gaze machine bought by the public will be the gift that goes on giving because one day Dakota will chat to her mum, Paula Wheeldon, by using her gaze to select words from a computer screen to form sentences that will be spoken aloud.
Already the machine allows Dakota to make simple choices and, most important of all, “speak” her own choice to her mum for the very first time.
A comfortable mat on the floor is Dakota’s favourite spot for watching movies.
On Tuesday Dakota had her eye gaze machine set up for the first time at home and told her mum that she wanted to be on the floor rather than go outside or go to bed as options appeared on screen. The clever computer can also play Dakota’s music, with Taylor Swift the choice of the moment, show films, allow her to send emails and Skype family abroad, including dad Simon who lives in Singapore.
I want to say a massive thank you to everybody that’s enabled Dakota to have a voice – for the whole family, it means a huge amount for us to be able to communicate with DakotaDakota’s mum Paula Wheeldon
For the time being Dakota needs help from her Lincoln special school teachers and her family with some programmes but, one day, environmental controls will be added so Dakota can experience other big firsts, such as turning lights on and off and opening and closing curtains.
Paula told us: “It’s an incredible piece of kit. At the moment Dakota has got basic screens. She can say she wants to go on the floor, she wants to go outside or she wants to go to bed.”
The family were quietly fundraising for an eye gaze machine and had been promised £1,800 – including £1,000 from Spalding Lions – before we added £500 from the Lincs Free Press Children’s Fund. Readers gave money and then Holbeach charity shop weighed in with £3,000 to complete the appeal in one go.
Paula said: “I want to say a massive thank you to everybody that’s enabled Dakota to have a voice – for the whole family, it means a huge amount for us to be able to communicate with Dakota.”