Guests at English Lakes Hotels, Resorts and Venues always find either Sam the Dog or Boris the Boar waiting to greet them in their bedroom at the hotels. These cuddly toys are there to welcome our junior guests, but can also be purchased and taken home. They have found their way all around the world – you may even have seen Sam’s exploits in space!
Sam brings another valuable benefit to young people in our community. Proceeds from the sale of Sam and Boris are donated to local charities and organisations that support children with specific needs.
Recently, it was a delight to witness the significant impact that Sam’s donation has made to a group of local children at Sandside Lodge School who have been able to take ownership of Smartbox Eye Gaze equipment.
Danielle Gaskin, the mother of one of the pupils explains what this means for her son, Harrison.
The eye gaze camera equipment that Sandside Lodge School were able to purchase with help from English Lakes Hotels & Sam’s Club generous donation has opened up a whole new world of communication for many students, one being my son Harrison, aged 13. Harrison has a rare type of epilepsy that has contributed to what is called ‘global developmental delay’. He has no speech and has limited understanding of his environment. Since 4 years old the school have encouraged Harrison to communicate by picture association & tried to build on this with ’cause & effect’ exercises. Harrison has been able to focus on simple pictures to make ‘choices’.
Since he has been working with the eye gaze camera and building on the ability to focus as a way of being able to communicate, it has given him the opportunity to engage & interact with people, making it exciting & fun, but opening up a world of understanding for him! His teachers have already said that he visibly shows his happiness & joy in his sessions as when he holds his focus on a highlighted area on the screen for a set number of seconds that will then smash a bottle, or water a seed to make a flower grow, or look at a familiar face and ‘custard pie’ it (one of his favourites!) This delights him as his understanding grows that he is in control!
This basic skill can then be increased for him to make choices and eventually to recognise simple words so that he can communicate his wishes and needs to us. I cannot say how overwhelmed and blessed I am, as are the teachers. Working with at least five children so far, they have been able to see them connect & ‘have a voice’ through this equipment! It has been so empowering to the students academically, socially & personally. One teacher told me she had cried seeing one child ‘come alive’ when realising she was being heard through the screen.
I can never fully put into words how this has impacted my son and those students at Sandside Lodge but I hope this has given a glimpse into how it will enhance their lives and open up amazing opportunities for them to participate more completely in life!
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