Speak your mind with eyes

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Salma Children's Rehabilitation Hospital implements breakthrough Eye Gaze technology to help challenged youth regain their lives.

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Published: Mon 21 Dec 2020, 5:36 PM

The Eye Gaze technology, or the Eye Gaze machine, is among the world's most advanced eye-driven communication system. You can tell stories simply with your eyes! The machine is carefully designed so that people with multiple locked-in diagnoses (which is when a patient is fully aware, but cannot move to communicate) can have their lives returned to them.

Eye Gaze technology uses eye gestures and transforms them into letters, which are then spelled into words and sentences by the machine. It is fast, smart and convenient, and also generates speech or long sentences from keywords that are commonly used. It further integrates with a cellular device via Bluetooth or WiFi, so that users can stay connected with friends and family, chat over WhatsApp, make calls, surf the internet, play games, and even use special drawing apps to detect eye-movement. It is also very convenient because the device and screen are specially designed to prevent eye-fatigue, giving them unlimited usage.

There are many forms of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems, which are communication platforms that assist people who are unable to express themselves using spoken words. AAC are commonly used with People of Determination, such as sign language, picture exchange systems, switch communication, braille, etc. but the eye gaze device is one of the world's most advanced forms, to date. It enables communication and access to the environment by connecting to the eyes of users, and letting them use eye movements to control a specially designed computer interface.

Once the individual has mastered the use of the device, their world becomes much bigger than it ever was before. For a person who once had limited ways to express themselves, the eye gaze enables them to share their thoughts, feelings, needs and stories through words generated by eye movements. They can also access education and make friends, show their interest and curiosity in the world around them and have fun with their friends and family.

Zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and other applications that have become so important during this Covid year are accessible on the eye gaze, giving individuals in long-term care facilities a way to connect with family and loved ones.

With ongoing therapy support, users can even advance to controlling their environment such as computers, doors, lights, radios, phones, TV and more.

Implementation and success story

Two patients at Salma Children's Rehabilitation Hospital are diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) disease, which affects the body's motor movement and the nervous system. A patient with SMA cannot move any part of their body, and therefore, cannot speak as well. Yet, children with SMA are very smart, fully aware and understand all their surroundings. They love meeting new people, spending time with friends, and are very social.

For Salma Children's Rehabilitation Hospital, watching them grow older brought the urge to bring them the Eye Gaze technology to help them come out to the world and speak what's on their mind.

Establishment of Salma Children's Rehabilitation Hospital

In the year 2018-19, there was a void in the post-acute and long-term care services for paediatric patients that encounter short or long-term injuries and/or congenital health scenarios. The need for specialised paediatric services in this realm was apparent. As a result, Salma Children's Rehabilitation Hospital (SCRH) by PLUS International Medical Centre LLC was established, becoming the first holistic, purpose-build private hospital in the UAE that is designed to provide specialised care for children.

Named after the first and oldest Emirati nurse, Salma Al Sharhan, the hospital provides services for in- and out-patient rehabilitation as well as long-term care. It offers 80 beds in Abu Dhabi, with highly qualified and trained teams of paediatric physiotherapists, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, and sensory integration therapists. They further work closely with paediatric physicians, intensivists and general practitioners.

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