A Voice for Olivia

Exciting technology helps child with disabilities to communicate

Pig-tailed, seven-year-old Olivia P. has been a BAYADA client since April 2014—almost all her young life. Olivia was born with a rare genetic condition called Pontocerebellar Hypoplasia (PCH). PCH is characterized by prenatal development of an abnormally small cerebellum and brain stem. It is usually associated with impaired brain development, problems with movement, and intellectual disability. Children with this condition are nonverbal and typically unable to communicate.

Olivia lives in State College, PA, where she receives 106 hours a week of nursing care from her BAYADA team. A critical part of the care they provide is helping Olivia learn and gain proficiency with her Tobii eye-tracking communications device. This device uses eye-tracking and gaze-interaction technology to assist people who are not only non-verbal, but also have difficulty controlling other parts of their bodies. Cameras pick up the activity of the cornea and allow Olivia to stare at a phrase or a symbol and “activate it” much like a mouse click. It opens a whole world of communications for Olivia.

BAYADA Nurses Stephanie Ott and Billie Jo (BJ) Stout regularly attend sessions with Olivia at the Penn State Speech Department, which teaches the little girl how to communicate through the use of assistive/augmentative devices. Afterwards, Stephanie and BJ carry those lessons into Olivia’s everyday life, finding new ways to implement what was learned. At one point, Olivia’s mother, Karina, felt that Stephanie and BJ knew more about the Tobii than herself or the teachers at the school.

The program, run by Dr. Janice Light, was recently featured on the BTN LiveBig Network to show the world how assistive/augmentative communication devices can help a child with disabilities like Olivia communicate and connect with her world. Olivia gladly and proudly shows off her communication skills in the video, How Penn State is working to provide a voice for all. You can watch the video here.

Olivia is pictured with her nurse Stephanie Ott.

Client Milestone Spotlight Olivia | Pediatric Care