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The Opportunity Foundation of America is located in Salt Lake City, though they collaborate with Boston College to be the manufacturer, distributor and provider for the technology used in the EagleEyes Project
EagleEyes (if you opt not to watch the video) allows children and adults with severe disabilities (such as cerebral palsy or traumatic brain injuries) to communicate, using electrodes that sense the electrical signals of a person’s eyes. People who are otherwise unable to move or otherwise interact with their world, then, use their eyes to operate the mouse of the computer, enabling them to play games but also communicate in other ways.
I enjoyed hearing about the impact that volunteering had on the volunteers themselves, that they often come away with a greater appreciation for even the small things in their lives. As Debbie told us, the foundation trained the students in the Community of Caring class at Olympus High to volunteer. In addition to attending Hartvigsen School to work one-on-one with the kids using the EagleEyes, the Olympus students have also raised money for additional units to gift to children who need it at home.
To be sure, I appreciated learning about this project, especially at this time of year when we reflect on the many things for which we are grateful. Debbie told us of the gratitude that the people with disabilities have, as well as their families, for the good that has come through this technology (which, incidentally, was developed by a man who insisted it be a non-profit venture).
However, Debbie said that, especially with older kids and young adults, the first thing that they have to teach is the principle of cause and effect. People who have had someone do everything for them, since their birth, do not naturally learn that their actions have effects. As I have neurotypical kids, it hadn’t occurred to me until just that moment what might be involved in teaching cause and effect, and how critical it is to the rest of our learning.
Certainly, I’m still trying to work on this even with my kids—my daughter has to learn that when she doesn’t complete her typing practice for the week, she doesn’t get any faster. It’s hard as a parent not to interrupt this learning process sometimes, especially when we see our kids hurting. Of course, it’s one of the reasons why I like Love & Logic as a discipline system, because they emphasize that consequences are our children’s greatest educators.
Additionally, I reflected on the basic things we do in Kindermusik that help our children develop a sense of cause and effect. The bell ringing? You did that, oh little one.
As they say at St. Jude’s, give thanks for the healthy kids in your life. And if you know of anyone who may benefit from volunteering with the Opportunity Foundation of America, or who could use this technology, you can get additional information at their website: http://opportunityfoundationofamerica.org/