A youth and adult show each other their alternative communication devices
Brooke and Callum showing each other their eye gaze devices

We were in the conference room at the Ron Joyce Childrens Rehab Centre, running our Hamilton Youth Sessions. While the leadership teams and participants were sharing their feelings, Callum entered the room. Callum is a youth participant from Hamilton, and had just got his new AAC device. Brooke is a member of the Hamilton Leadership Team, who has developed a strong understanding of the Imagining Possibilities activities and processes. Brooke who employs a similar form of eye-gaze/tracking to Callum and was therefore particularly excited to connect with him. 

Because of this even from the first introduction through Brooke’s AAC she jumped at the chance to spend time with Callum.

The creation of a mentoring relationship

On the first day, Brooke and Callum were excited to see that they both used similar AAC devices that tracked eye gaze to help with their communication. For Brooke, a reflective dot on her glasses converts head movements into computer mouse movements. Likewise, Callum uses his eyes to point at the computer screen, and an eye tracker on his device reads his eye movements. The bond between these two only grew throughout the week. Therefore, as Callum became more and more active throughout the workshops, Brooke seized every chance to act as his mentor.

At that time Callum was fairly new to the technology and was a novice in its use during the workshop. However, Brooke, on the other hand, had plenty of experience. Thus, this presented the perfect opportunity for Brooke to share her knowledge.

The role of mentor was one Brooke took very seriously, at one point taking the time to express through her AAC, “I am speech language pathologist; I am Shelly for him.” Shelley Deegan was in fact Brooke’s speech language pathologist and is a long-time advocate of Imagining Possibilities. Thus, Brooke was expressing how she now was Callum’s Shelly, a very important role to her. Callum’s response to this was a beaming smile that melted the hearts of everyone around. This seemed to please Brooke as well who let out an overjoyed laugh. It was very special to see these two “Alternative Communicators” share such an immediate connection.

One time in particular really made everyone laugh

Callum commented that a bewildered sickly character in a story as “yicky”. When asked if he would help the character, he responded “no” since he was sick, but to be gentle with him, undeniably showing Callum’s empathy and personality. Everyone in the workshop was truly touched when Brooke expressed that she loved Callum. Callum’s response was a shouted “I love you!” that this time not only made Brooke smile, but his mother and everyone around the two as well. When it came time for the Friday afternoon session to come to an end, Brooke was adamant that Callum be made aware of her message “I love you, I’ll miss you.” Although it was the end of this week’s workshop, it was by no means the end of this inspiring mentorship relationship.

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