FW: Assistive Technology — TOTA Annual Mountain Central Conference – Nov 21-23, 2008

Interesting. Yet,
I admit to being jaded enough to have a couple of questions raised by the
article. First, frankly,  is Jemma really doing the typing, or is Mum? Sorry
folks, but I’m reminded of stories of horses that did math so this question
will always “nag” unfortunately. If Mum really is just steadying
little Jemma’s arm, this seems like a perfect opportunity for a creative
bit of engineering. Moreover, the nature of Cerebral Palsy is such that, no
matter how limited our fine muscle control is, we retain what’s called “muscle
memory.” That’s a fancy way of saying “practice makes perfect”—or
at least “much better” in our case. Jemma may be facing years of tearful
struggle, but rewiring your brain isn’t a quick process. CP sufferers do
face much greater limits than most people, but those limits are often less rigid
than they appear.


My other question
is longer term. To be certain, being an eloquent writer is a huge asset in school.
I know from direct experience that a disabled student who can write very well
makes his or her teachers swoon.
J However, the rest of the world is much harder to impress. Does Jemma
hope for a writing career? That’s certainly possible, but it’s a
trek up Everest. Writing of the caliber you can live on comes from what’s
usually called “life experience,” and you don’t get that if you’re
alone. Jemma should find another marketable skill and perfect that for earning,
and then hone her writing. I say that because there is a local woman named
Ramsey who is very much like me physically. We went through the same university
after being trained as writers. In college, our paths diverged with my switch
to computer science. Her writing won awards. The last I heard of Ramsey was a
few years ago, and she was too poor to afford a decent AAC device. I’m
sure the rehab agencies weren’t eager to help her because writing isn’t
very marketable.


From: DSloan
Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2008 5:33 PM
To: Scott Royall
Subject: Re: Assistive Technology — TOTA Annual Mountain Central
Conference – Nov 21-23, 2008


  Didja see this in the Houston Chronicle?

28, 2008, 11:31PM

Cerebral palsy can’t stop 10-year-old’s winning

Girl limited in movement, not imagination, wrote her way
past 1,600 other children to win an essay contest

Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle




A Hawarden Grove Christmas

Jemma Leech

I remember in
London the winters were warm and wet. No snow or ice, just rainy
gumboot-puddled walks in Brockwell Park, while the summer-packed paddling pool
filled of its own accord with rainwater, autumn leaves and rainbows of crisp

We disappeared
in the secret garden underneath palisades of sleeping creeping clematis and
wisteria, swapping the dry dark with the wet light as we trailed the paving
maze to the fishpond at its heart.

waded in patches of newly dug earth, taking worms from the mud as an avocet
might from a turning tide-bare beach. A robin called to me from the crumbling
wall, saying ‘spring will be here soon, believe me, believe me.’ His red chest
puffed out with pride as he sang me a song of love and fidelity. Flattery
became him as I cried at his song, and he flew off knowing I’d believed in his
truth. From the far end of the garden, I heard him begin his flirtation again
with another open heart.

From the top
of the hill in the park we had watched fireworks break out all across the city
that Fifth of November, as if in domino from common to common. But on that
Christmas Day the mist had come down, the park was an island and we were cut
off from the mass of humanity beyond the mist. It was just me, my brother and sister,
and our weary parents inhaling the fog like perfume on a cloud of silage steam
grateful for the relief it brought from the stench of London. That mist-bound
land was our kingdom that day, and I was its princess, adorned with a crown of
diamond drips and drops, soon dried by the warmth of our terraced palace on
Hawarden Grove.

”I am Jemma
and I am immortal!"

Thus begins
the one-page autobiography of Houston fifth-grader Jemma Leech who, though
cerebral palsy has left her little control of her body, lives in a vivid world
of images and words that modern technology now is beginning to let her share.

words are for me the glue which keeps my existence held fast in a semblance of
stability," she writes. "Without words, it would all come crashing
round my ears, turning bright sunshine into darkest night. Poetry fills my soul
with delightful hues of life’s momentary escapes into bliss, and torment.
Language is my paint and my keyboard is my brush."

Today in
London, 10-year-old Jemma will be named first-place winner in the 16-and-under
category of the prestigious "Write Up Your Street" competition.
Jemma, a student at Mark Twain Elementary School, beat more than 1,600 entrants
in the contest.

A London
native who until a year ago lived with her family in Wales, Jemma will not be
able to attend the ceremony. But in a videotaped acceptance speech — her
voice synthesized by a computer from words she types using a xylophone stick
— she credits her teacher, Pansy Gee, with teaching her "to let my
readers see what I see and feel what I feel."

Mark Twain
Elementary is a Houston Independent School District magnet school offering a
literary development program.

"She wows
me," Gee said Friday. "This child has an amazing ability to express
thoughts, feelings, visual pictures that have been locked in her head. As a
teacher, it’s almost daunting. She’s better at it than I am. I can’t do that,
and I don’t know many adults who can."

‘Stunned us’

Leech’s winning entry … stunned us all with its imagery, craft and
finesse," a contest judge said of Jemma’s essay, a description of a winter
scene near her former London home. "The fact that Jemma is just 10 years
old makes her talent burn even more brightly. It is the one entry that inspired
a unanimous decision — Winner!"

daughter of Caroline and Perryn Leech, moved to Houston last year when her
father took a job as technical director of Houston Grand Opera.

Jemma, her
mother recalled, wasn’t breathing after birth, and spent six weeks in intensive
care before being allowed to join her parents at home. The couple knew their
child might be vulnerable to developmental problems. And at 1, when it was
apparent that she couldn’t sit up unaided, Jemma was diagnosed with cerebral
palsy — a disease that affects muscle control.

Jemma, her
mother said, was a bookworm from the start.

At an age at
which most children would be toddling about the house, Jemma would spend hours
flipping through books. At 3, she joined her father in reading the daily

grandparents would see her with the books and say, ‘Look, Jemma’s reading,’ and
we’d laugh," her mother said. "We’d show her all the pictures, the
crosswords. We knew she was with us. There was a brightness in her eyes, a
wickedness, and she’d laugh."

Until about
age 5, Jemma’s communication skills were limited to tapping out codes for
"yes" and "no." Then one day, as Jemma’s mother worked with
her daughter with flashcards, the child began using them to spell words.

"I went
running across the road yelling, ‘Guess what Jemma’s doing?’ " Caroline
Leech said.

In the weeks
that followed, Jemma, as her parents steadied her hand, typed out poem after
poem, story after story, on the computer keyboard.

is one of her big things," her mother said. "She can write poems in a
few words to say the same things that would take a few paragraphs. She has the
power of language. She just loves and revels in words. I have to go to the

Musical ambition

mother believes the girl’s musical talent may equal her literary skill —
but to date there is no way to hear the compositions.

heartbeat is written on a stave, with crescendos and diminuendos, tacit bars
and heart-stopping glissandos," Jemma writes. "But my breath is the
libretto, with such glorious poetry and anarchic rhyme that I can’t make sense
of it at all."

In darker
moments, Jemma writes about how others perceive her.

" ‘How
can you,’ they say in hushed tones, ‘read, write and think like normal people
do?’ " she writes. " ‘Surely that mother of yours is just making it
up and should stop telling fibs.’ Well, d’you know? I do have a brain and I do
have a mind — and the imagination of Dahl, the poetry of Keats, the drama
of Shakespeare, the music of Verdi and the passion of them all in one."

For her essay,
Jemma will receive about $800 in books from a London bookstore.

An additional
$800 in books will be split between Mark Twain Elementary School and the school
Jemma attended in Wales.




DJSloan .. Houston, Texas


—– Original Message —-
From: Scott Royall <royall@conchbbs.com>
To: Scott Royall <royall@conchbbs.com>
Sent: Tuesday, April 1, 2008 2:58:05 PM
Subject: FW: Assistive Technology — TOTA Annual Mountain Central Conference –
Nov 21-23, 2008

Oh boy, how did
I end up on this list? I don’t know if I can go, but it would be nice.


From: v mason
Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2008 12:58 PM
To: royall@conchbbs.com
Subject: Assistive Technology — TOTA Annual Mountain Central Conference
– Nov 21-23, 2008


Texas Occupational
Therapy Association Mountain Central Conference

November 21-23,

Austin Hotel, Austin TX


Submit a presentation for our Assistive Technology Track

and/or Book your Booth now to reach OT professionals


Why wait? Start
making plans now to join us at MCC 2008




Vicki Mason


Vendor Services, TOTA



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