Hear Grace's story,
as featured on KS95 For Kids.
Imagine going through childhood unable to ask questions, whisper secrets, or even tell people your name. Until two years ago, life without words was Grace's reality. Born 16 weeks early, weighing barely more than a pound, she has cerebral palsy - a form of brain damage that, for Grace, affects her ability to speak.
"We relied on rudimentary sign language and pictures to communicate," says Grace's mom, Linda. "Conversations were a guessing game. It was frustrating for all of us, but especially for Grace."
Grace's Mom Hears 'I Love You' for the First Time
Grace began coming to Gillette at age 1 to address issues with her muscle tone, another symptom of cerebral palsy. At the time, she was receiving speech therapy from a community provider. Three years later, however, she still lived in a silent world. That's when a Gillette speech pathologist suggested that Grace try using an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device. The portable computer contains pictures that represent words and phrases. When Grace touches the screen, it "speaks" the corresponding word. She also can spell words, such as her name.
"I never thought I'd hear my daughter say, 'I love you,'" says Linda. "I heard those three words and cried with sheer joy."
"She really matured" after getting the device, adds her dad, George. "She went from little to big so fast. It was exciting."
Grace Inspires Mom During Battle With Cancer
Shortly after Grace received her device, which she calls her "talker," the family experienced a double blow: Linda was diagnosed with cancer, and George lost his job to staffing cuts. As Linda underwent difficult chemotherapy (she is cancer-free today) her bright light was Grace's new voice. "Grace was an inspiration to keep fighting, to not lose hope," says Linda.
Today, Grace continues to thrive with her talker. She started first grade in the fall and participates in most classroom activities with her able-bodied peers - even show and tell. "Grace told her classmates all about her puppy," says Linda. "That would have been impossible without her talker."
"A Huge Confidence Booster"
Her parents say Grace's talker has given their daughter much more than a voice - it's a way to connect with her family, her peers, and the world around her. "It's been a huge self-confidence booster," says Linda. "Her voice and her personality suddenly emerged!"