Michael's Eye Gaze Story


Michael is in his forties. He left his special school at the age of 19 and has lived at home with his mum and spent time at day centres since then. Michael has cerebral palsy and lots of physical difficulties. After he left school, staff thought he had severe learning disabilities. As he had no way of communicating easily with people they often assumed he did not understand what was being said to him. Over the years Michael had become very withdrawn and had given up trying to let staff at the day centre know what he wanted as they were unable to interpret his attempts to communicate. At home Michael had lots of tantrums and could be quite aggressive, lashing out at his mum.

Michael and his mum were involved with the nurses from the local community team for adults with learning disabilities. They visited him at home and in his day centre to offer support to try to help the family manage Michael's needs and 'difficult' behaviours. The nurses work closely with other team members and referred Michael to an occupational therapist because they thought he needed a different seating system. The OT worked with him over a number of visits and got consent to ask the speech and language therapist to see him. The therapist from the team felt that Michael understood a great deal more than he was given credit for and that he wanted to communicate more than he was able. She arranged for him to have an assessment using an eye-gaze computer control system with another therapist who specialised in AAC and a rep from an eye-gaze supplier. At his first attempt Michael was able to use the system to play simple games and demonstrate that he understood what he needed to do to control it. He enjoyed the simple games and was keen to continue using the system for over an hour despite becoming very tired. Michael managed to follow instructions to set up the device to track his eye gaze as accurately as possible and was very motivated by the opportunity to choose activities he wanted to try independently.

Michael's speech and language therapist wrote a detailed report explaining how well Michael had done at the assessment session and with the support of his GP it was agreed that NHS funding would be sought. Local NHS commissioners who were responsible for funding most healthcare in the area agreed to fund an eye gaze system for Michael and also to pay for a package of support from a local AAC specialist speech and language therapist and a rehabilitation engineer to work with Michael, his family and carers to set up the system, support the initial learning and on-going review of his progress. As soon as the right mounting kit is delivered to enable the device to be fitted to his wheelchair Michael can begin therapy sessions to develop his ability to use the system for communication. It is hoped that the speech and language therapists from the ALD team will be trained to offer direct support within a few months and that the specialist will simply provide them with telephone support and a yearly review of Michael's progress.


Ghost Boy

Eye Gaze

Learning Disability

AAC Specialist Centres