||Schofield Hall 218|
||Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004|
Communication Disorders Clinic|
Helps Area Residents
MAILED: August 3, 1999|
For 52-year-old Dave Dolloff, working with computers used to be second nature. Now it's a struggle.
When Dolloff, who used to be a computer programmer and operator, was 45, he had a brain tumor removed. Two years later he fell and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Since that time, Dolloff has been in a wheelchair because his movements and vision are both impaired. His speech also is difficult to understand.
"My (impaired vision) can't be corrected, and it's difficult to move my fingers because there are spastic movements in my hands," Dolloff said.
Dolloff, who lives in the Mike Wilson House, a home in Eau Claire for people with brain injuries, has been undergoing therapy at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's Center for Communication Disorders since February of 1999.
"I believed I needed adaptive computer access in order to enhance my ability to write and express thoughts and ideas," Dolloff said during his initial evaluation at the clinic.
Jennifer Johnson, a communication disorders graduate student at UW-Eau Claire who's been Dolloff's clinician since he started coming to the clinic, said their goal is to get Dolloff reconnected with people.
"We're trying to teach him ways of communicating through technology," said Johnson, adding that all of Dolloff's therapy takes place in the Assistive Technology-Augmentative and Alternative Communication Clinic, which was created for people who can't speak well and need technology to help them communicate. "Until he came to the lab, he had no way of communicating intelligibly."
Dolloff, whose speech is only about 30 percent intelligible to unfamiliar listeners, is unable to write because of the spastic movements in his hands, so Johnson has been teaching him to type instead.
"Dave is a very intelligent man he understands 100 percent of what he's told," Johnson said.
His physical impairments are what set him apart. So every Monday in the summer, for one hour and 15 minutes, Johnson has been re-teaching him how to use a computer.
"When Dave worked on computers it was during the time when there were no screens; they operated using punch cards," said Johnson.
Johnson said Dolloff wanted to use computers, not just to communicate, but because he felt out of date.
"Technology went past him for a few years," said Johnson, referring to the time when Dolloff was suffering from his brain tumor and injury. "So I'm teaching him how to use e-mail and the Internet as a way to connect."
Dolloff has an e-mail account set up through Hotmail so he can e-mail his family and his friends at the Wilson House. Also, every Monday, Johnson helps Dolloff surf the Internet.
"Each week I ask him what he wants to look up," Johnson said. "Last week we looked up pizza places in Eau Claire. The week before we looked up sites on golf because Dave used to do that a lot."
With the help of Thomas King, associate professor of communication disorders and one of the founders of the AT/AAC lab, Johnson has customized the computer to meet Dolloff's physical limitations.
A large square red pad is placed on Dolloff's lap so the keyboard can be placed on it, putting it closer to his reach. Johnson also has slowed the repeat rate of the keys so if Dolloff brushes a key by accident it won't register.
"Dave has to hold the key down for a while before it registers," Johnson said. "It beeps after it has registered and then Dave knows to let his finger up."
The number pad is used to move the mouse. Because of his impaired vision, the font size on the computer is increased to 28 points or higher. Orange and red dot stickers are placed on the keys so Dolloff remembers where important keys are located.
"We're trying to get Dave comfortable enough with the computer so he can have one at home to use as a communication tool," Johnson said.
For Dolloff, that probably couldn't happen soon enough. He put it best by saying, "It's frustrating to have to repeat things over and over."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: August 3, 1999