Nathan’s Voice & Freedom

We continue working with Nathan on the Dynavox. I love that through the Dynavox we get glimpses of Nathan’s thoughts and true understanding of the world. I am going to share a few of these glimmers:

(PS – the computer reads his retina, so all he has to do is look at something and hold his gaze, and if he holds his gaze long enough, it will “select”)

(PPS – all the videos are super short – you won’t spend more than 5 min’s on all of them!)


Notice how Ronna asks him – “Where’s your hand” and his hand immediately starts to move. He can’t instantly move it and give it to Ronna – but you can see that the understanding is there. Some people think Nathan doesn’t know his body parts – think again please.


He not only knows “eyes” – we can not ask him “W” questions – what are these? And he can answer.

Does he know his animals? He surely knows pig:


And lamb


Here he had to identify the picture of the animal, and then look at the animal after it appeared in a location in the “farm”. Ronna cued him because the buttons are a little too small for him, but he not only chose them, he then found the animal in the farm.



He knows how to play “Hide and Seek”. In this game, the character hides behind one of the objects in the screen – a tree, a chimney, the mailbox, etc. Nathan figured out how to play the game, and will look until he finds the character.


He likes boy noises, like any little boy:


He is also WILLFUL. He REALLY wanted to watch TV more than anything, and turned it on many times DURING session and tried finding ways of telling us he wanted to watch TV (I have like 10 clips of him turning on the TV or telling us about the TV, but I won’t bore you with them all!).

Notice also how, once he says “I need lots and lots of kisses”, he looks at me with lovey dovey eyes. He does this EVERY TIME. He knows exactly what he’s asking for – and he loves to ask for them!


In this video, he chooses a page where I’ve forgotten to put the button that takes him to the main page. Since he couldn’t get out on his own, he went to the “talk” button, and instead “told” us that he wanted to play something else, so we could help him get out of the page. Smart or what!

Here’s another one where he sneaks the TV on.


He’s still trying to tell us that he wants to watch TV – but now he’s using Belle!


Last time Ronna was here, she added a button for “Put the toys away” to prevent him from jumping from one activity to the other too fast. He picked it up really quickly and today he said many times to put the toys away after he was finished!


Also notice how he gets around, from one page to another to another.


To get out of the previous page, he was able to use the top navigation – which is a tiny tiny square! Ronna comments on how impressed she is with his eye gaze – he really IS impressive!

The videos of the last activities were brand new and he saw them that session for the first time, so he was still exploring all the boxes (he can’t read, so he has to select them to hear what they say, so he knows what they represent – except the shapes that are obvious like car, etc).

Nathan has come such a long way in the last few months of working with his Dynavox and we are SO SO proud of him!

This machine represents his voice, his freedom, the ability to finally control his environment, to give us a glimpse of what’s in that gorgeous happy beautiful head!


  1. WOW!!!! GO NATHAN!!! I can’t wait till you get to show all the big wigs who think you are not smart what you are made of!!!

  2. This is super cool! Makes me think I should work with Emma on an eye gaze system. Hmmmm. We’ve been working with the iPad, though, without access to an eyegaze system. Are you still using the iPad at all with Nathan for communication? I think it fits into our lifestyle a bit better (easily portable) and it’s readily available to us since we already have it. I’ll have to think of ways to add in some of the stuff you have on the Dynavox to the ipad since Emma is getting better with her deliberate use of her hands to select items on the iPad……

  3. I think so too Pam!!!

    Kristina, we are using the IPAD for recreation and the Dynavox for communication. Nathan’s fine motor control is just not good enough to provide him with a scalable communication method with the IPAD. If someone comes up with an eye gaze system for the IPAD, we would be in heaven. But until that happens, the Dynavox with Eye Gaze is his best chance. I don’t know if you could notice how FAST this child flies through this system? How versatile he is at making choices, going back to the main menu, making another choice, telling us something, then something else … In a way it almost replicates speech – the speed with which he uses it. And the only reason why is because we are completely bypassing his need for motor control – which is the most damaged area of his brain. This way, he has TRUE freedom, and it is not based on his body or how his muscle tone feels that day. If we added a motor control element, he would never have much freedom, and could never have the speed, accuracy, and amount of choices available to him on the eye gze system. The Dynavox is SO MUCH MORE WORK for us to program than the IPAD – but I find that it is worth the work, given the freedom that it gives him. We add a few pages each week, so we’ve been able to keep the system growing and giving him more and more opportunities.

  4. great videos, marcela!! i love all of them and what they represent, but of course my mommy-heart loved the look he gave you when requesting kisses the very best.

  5. do you think this would be beneficial for a child who is hearing impaired? My son has no fine movement control and were unsucessful with the big mac switch. Watching your son gave me hope. 🙂

  6. Nathan is doing so awesome with the Dynavox! I can’t wait for Cj to start using the Dynavox! He has a great new ST that is training him and he is doing a great job. She told me they are getting a Dynavox soon for Cj to trial!!! It is about time, as I have been fighting for this forever!!!!! We also use the ipad for recreation! He LOVES it!

  7. Loved this post. It brought happy tears to my eyes. What a smart boy. I can only imagine how good it feels for him to be able to communicate. I wish Cody could use eye gaze but his vision isn’t there. Can the Dynavox auditory scan?

  8. Those are great videos! Brought tears to my eyes to think that the school didn’t want to work with him. You all are doing an amazing job! Go Nathan!

  9. AWESOME! I had a big smile on my face from watching this!

  10. Cathy Jordan says

    These made me cry!! So amazing. He is beyond words.

  11. Eleanor says

    Thanks so much for sharing. We should be getting our V-Max in a month or two and I can not wait!!

  12. Wow, I have happy tears in my eyes. Nathan is doing an amazing job with the eye gaze, I am so excited for him and for you with this, the ability to communicate with each other is awesome. And I nearly cried when he looked up at you for kisses, so sweet! It makes me so angry that the school dismissed his ability so early on and so easily. I am so afraid of that happening to Sebastian. I have already met a couple kids here that are definitely old enough and capable enough to have communication systems and they don’t. Nathan is so lucky to have you fighting for what is rightfully his right to communicate, and he does it so well.

  13. Eugenia says

    I am so impressed at how much progress Nathan is doing with his Dynavox with eye gaze.
    Fantastic Nathan! It is amazing at how much freedom it gives him to express himself and to continue learning.
    Last week, I took my son to a check up with his eye doctor. I was talking to the doctor about how I wanted to get an Eye gaze device for Matthew. He did not think eye gaze devices were that hot. He noticed that Matthew has a strong Thumb and a thumb switch is something to consider.
    One of the things that he advised me that I wanted to share with you is the importance to get a consistent “YES” and “NO” from our kids.
    Using “classical conditioning” to teach him a “YES” response. You choose what you want that response to be. It can be to look up, to blink, to make a clicking sound, to tilt the head.
    Once you get the consistent “YES” work on the “NO” response”. Like look down, etc…
    You can expand a lot once our kids learn how much they can control with the “yes” and “no” communication. You can’t bring the Dynavox everywhere and if it breaks and needs repair it can take days or weeks to get it back.

    Hurray Nathan! You are a handsome smart fun boy!

  14. Jo Anne Schreiber says

    What a great tool for him. He has always looked very intellegent. Just locked in an uncooperative body. 🙁 Way to go mom!!
    Didn’t you do the Doman program for awhile? Is he reading? Reading has been such a HUGE outlet for Ashley.
    God bless.

  15. Joey Jenkins says

    Hurrah, Nathan. may God continue to heal you 100 percent.

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