A young girl from Weston Hills is gaining greater independence thanks to a miracle machine that allows her to share her thoughts with people around her.
Cerebral palsy sufferer Dakota Read (12) touched the hearts of our readers who donated to our appeal last year so she could “speak” to family, friends, and school teachers with the aid of a £5,600 eye gaze machine.
The machine – a clever computer – tracks Dakota’s gaze so she can select on-screen options. She’s used it since June and it’s a big help at home and at school in Lincoln.
Dakota answers questions from teachers and can make “virtual sandwiches” – selecting the bread types and fillings – before gifting them to friends. She also takes part in cookery classes and has made cakes in the virtual world.
Mum Paula Wheeldon said: “Dakota loves to make different things for her peers and familiar adults and she uses the eye gaze to choose which friends to make things for.
“Dakota provides us with lots of smiles when she does this and gets excited about taking her creation to her chosen person.”
At home, when Paula asks Dakota if she wants to sit in her favourite spot on the floor, the youngster can change the question and say she wants to go outside.
Because Dakota has never been able to speak, her family have always been left wondering what she might be thinking about but the eye gaze is breaking down barriers.
Paula said: “It has opened up a lot more gateways for us to communicate and for Dakota to become more independent. It’s not just being used as a social thing – it’s being used now to communicate answers to relevant questions in her education.”
Dakota has a severe form of cerebral palsy, which affects all four limbs, but one day she will have greater control of her environment when controls are added to her eye gaze so she can turn lights on and off or open and close curtains.