“Eye” Love You – The Creation of a Mentorship Duo

Brooke and Calum

The room came alive as the last member of our Friday afternoon workshop entered. The participants in the workshop were in the midst of “Open Session,” an activity at the beginning of each workshop where participants share how they are feeling and anything they would like to say. This was all put on hold with the entrance of none other than our beloved youth participant Callum. One woman in particular was even more excited than the rest. This was Callum’s fellow AAC user Brooke who employs a similar form of eye-gaze/tracking. Brooke is a member of the Hamilton Leadership Team, who has through the years developed a strong understanding in Imagining Possibilities Clean Language activities and processes. From the start, Brooke immediately hit it off with 10-year-old Callum, one of the participants in the Imagining Possibilities Youth Workshop.

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. (To learn more on this form of AAC, links can be found at the bottom).  Callum uses his eyes to point at the computer screen, and an eye tracker on his device reads his eye movements. He was fairly new to the technology and was a novice in its use during the workshop. Brooke, on the other hand, had plenty of experience. This presented the perfect opportunity for Brooke to share her knowledge. It all began with an introduction through Brooke’s AAC of “Hi, my name is Brooke. How are you?” Callum responded promptly with, “My name is Callum, how are you?” From there, the amazing duo thrived.  Brooke jumped at the chance to spend time with Callum. Whenever the two were on different sides of the room, Brooke would ask someone to bring her closer to Callum so she could continue their dialogue. 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. 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 “non-verbal” AAC users share such an immediate connection.

The bond between these two only grew throughout the week, as Callum became more and more active throughout the workshop, with Brooke seizing every chance to act as his mentor. One time in particular really made everyone laugh, with Callum describing 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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