Someone said to me I should play the Lotto tonight because this was one of these incredible days you never see coming. It was a day packed with visits and activities. There were really brilliant people here from England advising us on different possible technical aids for Pádraig; people from Cork trialling out top-notch communication equipment; an engineer from the City Council who was just walking by the house and remembered that we had applied for a special parking slot for Pádraig – and decided to measure it all out to do the best possible job for him; an absolutely beautiful music therapy session; a person calling in to check all of Pádraig’s dietary needs were covered for Pforzheim; and a birthday boy – one of Pádraig’s friend – calling in for ‘Kaffeetrinken’.
What really and truly took my breath away, however, was this fabulous work of art by Pádraig:
It’s a ‘heatmap’, a picture Pádraig drew with his eyes on a screen – just by looking at it. He started in the bottom left corner. When I asked him to look to the top right corner of the screen he did that: he quickly moved diagonally up to the right (that’s the red narrow line going up and the bright red spot). He went back and looked at the spot at the bottom where he had started. Then I asked him to look up left. It took him a few seconds and then he looked at the left top corner of the screen (the blue line and spot). After that he looked along the bottom of the screen and then went up to the right (the multi-coloured spots on the right of the screen).
Here is a bit of a video recording to show how he drew the blue and red spots.
There are loads of reasons why this is not just absolutely amazing and a really great achievement – this has the potential to be life-changing for Pádraig. After the eye-tests, we had been told that Pádraig could not move his eyes into any direction but horizontally: this heatmap following his eye movements proves the contrary: he /can/ move his eye into any direction and he can do it when we ask him to do so. I asked him to look to the top right corner, then to the top left corner – and that is what he did. Because he can do this, he should be able to do, or learn to do, so much more with the eye tracker, especially in terms of communication. This is a system similar to that of Stephen Hawkins’ or Simon Fitzpatrick’s – both of them wrote quite influencial books.
The day, today, really left me breathless.