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Giving thanks

The Daily Record - 10/9/2017

WOOSTER — Not many 5-year-olds in England dream of visiting Wooster, Ohio. But Anthony Dale made it his mission to come and meet the people who gave him a voice.

Dale, 29, who has cerebral palsy, saw his dream come true this week when he arrived at the Prentke Romich Company, the creator of the Language Learn Living board that gives Dale the ability to communicate with his family and the rest of the world. He has wanted to visit since age 5, when he first started using the software.

“I am here to help you,” he told President David Moffatt and Prentke Romich employees, who gathered for a small reception held Wednesday at the Wooster headquarters.

Dale traveled from his home in Kent, England, with his father Peter and his caretaker, John McGurrin, arriving in the U.S. on Tuesday night. A Christmas gift from his parents, Dale and his family began planning their trip across the pond in March.

“I received an email from Peter, who we didn’t know before. We were touched and felt so special that they reached out,” said Kally Mavromatis, marketing specialist for Prentke Romich.

After observing operations in Wooster, Dale was headed to Pennsylvania to visit some family then on to Pittsburgh where he would have lunch with Bruce Baker, the creator of MINSPEAK vocabulary, the language system used in PRC devices.

The Prentke Romich Co. has led the way in the development of speech-generating devices (SGDs) and continues to innovate in the field of augmentative and alternative communication. Dale’s device has given him the ability to live an independent lifestyle.

His board contains a number of icons that relate to words and phrases. Dale is able to tap those icons with his finger and can move across the board as quickly as typing on a keyboard.

“He doesn’t even have to look for the words. He uses the same core words so much he has rapid access to them,” Peter said.

Prentke Romich also makes devices for people who don’t have the use of their hands, they can use a laser attached to their head and point the laser beam at the icons they wish to choose.

Four years ago, Dale moved out of his parents home in Biddenden. He first moved into a local care home to learn how to live independently, then applied for a specially-adapted two-bedroom bungalow. He moved into it 18 months ago.

A four-person caretaker team assists him with his day-to-day life, with at least one caretaker always on duty. A caretaker also drives Dale’s car equipped with an adapted ramp that he leases through the U.K.’s Motability Scheme, which provides an affordable vehicle for people with disabilities in exchange for their mobility allowance, according to the service’s website.

Living away from his family, Dale still serves as the “lynchpin of the family,” his father told the PRC employees.

“He communicates with everyone in the family. He calls my mum. He speaks with my sister,” Peter said. “My sister doesn’t call me as much as she talks to him.”

Dale is an only child and his father appreciates the difficulties other families have to take care of more than one child along with one who is disabled. He and his wife have always fought to give their son “a good life like everyone else.”

“As parents, we have to fight for our child and make demands,” Peter said. “We know it’s easy to ignore someone like Anthony.”

The adventures will continue for Dale once he arrives home. His father and uncle plan to enter him in a yachting race next year, naming him the skipper of the John Corby-designed yacht they named, “Bad Boys.” Peter’s brother is a computer engineer and is developing a way to link the boat’s wireless technology to Dale’s device.

“He’ll integrate it with Anthony’s technology so he can look at the measurements and the instruments. That’s what skippers do,” Peter said.

Dale’s visit allowed everyone involved in the manufacturing of his device to see how the finished project makes a difference in people’s lives.

“They get to see what happens next. This will keep us going for quite awhile,” Moffatt said. “It’s exciting to see someone not only proficient with the technology but who lives independently and interacts socially with it.”

Reporter Emily Morgan can be reached at 330-287-1632 or emorgan@the-daily-record.com.

CREDIT: EMILY MORGAN

 
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