Edgelings

Restoring their Voices

RESTORING THEIR VOICES by Scott Budman

Three months ago, Jordan could not speak.
Today, he took time to thank Hewlett-Packard Co., in perfect english.
Jordan is autistic, and a student at the Hope Technology School in Palo Alto.  He, and many of his classmates, have been using computers to find their voices.  Among the computers that seem to work the best for the students is the TouchSmart from HP.  Its big screen, large fonts, and touchscreen entry makes the computer much easier for students like Jordan to use than a traditional keyboard.
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Back in January, when we first met Jordan, he was making progress, typing words onto the TouchSmart’s screen, and hearing them read back.  Pretty cool.  He, and his parents, were able to “hear” Jordan for the first time.
Then, shockingly, the Hope School was burglarized.  All of the computers — along with printers, cameras, and scanners — were taken.  For a school that relies on technology to help its students, this was a crushing blow.  Add to that the economic collapse, and things looked bleak.
But some HP executives got wind of how their technology was being used at the school, and they stepped in to help.  Big time.  HP replaced all of the Hope School’s computers, scanners, printers, and cameras. Then, on top of that, they donated another five TouchSmarts, a machine that starts at 1,200 dollars.  Sure, that’s a drop in the bucket for a firm like HP, but it’s a cascade of riches for a school like Hope Tech. 
Now, instead of waiting in line to get a shot at a computer, Jordan can pretty much sit with one whenever he wants.  And the results have been dramatic:  When we re-visited the school, Jordan played back a recording of his own voice this time, not the computer’s.  The message: “Thank you, Hewlett Packard.”
And that’s the beginning.  Other Hope Tech students have learned to edit on the TouchSmarts, and are putting together videos that rival any commercial you see on TV.  They play “Jeopardy” on the big screens, and create avatars to move, fly — and yes, even talk. 
The Hope School may not be the most traditional way to learn, but it’s hard to argue that the technology isn’t making a difference in the lives of its students.  Spend a few minutes there, and you’ll see -and hear- the changes taking place.