GPatrick Cryar can use one finger to find phrases or complete sentences to communicate his needs or converse.
iPad is more than a
toy – it’s his voice
For 47 years, Patrick Cryar has been able to communicate only with grunts and gestures. Cerebral palsy has limited his body but not his active mind. His family and caretakers have tried to learn his unique language with limited success.
But a bunch of caring people have given Mr. Cryar a true voice via an iPad tablet computer.
Mr. Cryar, whose mother Lana Cryar Wright died in 1995, had been living with his step-grandmother, Patti Cryar. But she had some health problems to crop up and was no longer able to lift Mr. Cryar. He was admitted to Marshall Manor Nursing Home about 6 months ago.
Cindi Barragree, Mr. Cryar’s restorative nursing team leader, was able to understand Mr. Cryar a bit because she cared for a sister with cerebral palsy whose condition was similar to his. Lydia Craft, his speech therapist, started looking for ways to improve his communications with others.
“You can communicate without verbal speech, and he’s very interactive,” Mrs. Craft said. “He can communicate a lot with gestures. His cognition is completely normal. In fact, I think it’s above average. He’s very smart. His injury is in the brain stem. It affects his body but not his cognition in any way.
“Before having the iPad, he could communicate some with gestures and vocalizations, but he told me he has felt kind of trapped and not able to express everything he wanted to,” Mrs. Craft said.
Mrs. Craft arranged for a technology specialist from the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation to visit Marshall Manor nursing home and research a communication device for Mr. Cryar. An Android-based tablet or iPad offered the most vocabulary options, said Amanda Russell, social services director at the nursing home.
But it’s not covered by any kind of medical funding. Patients who are living at home can get a communications device covered by Medicaid, but not nursing-home patients, Mrs. Russell said.
The $900 needed for the iPad came from several churches: Lake City Assembly of God, Guntersville First Baptist, Creek Path Baptist, Episcopal Church of the Epiphany and the Church at Lake Guntersville. A Bellows grant from United Cerebral Palsy helped buy the accessories. Donations were also made by staff members, Mrs. Russell said.
Mr. Cryar now has an iPad 4 with special communications software. It’s connected to his wheelchair by an adjustable “magic bar” that can keep the iPad in the correct position in front of him so it’s always available.
Mr. Cryar can use one finger to pull down menus, point and choose a phrase or a sentence he wants to use. Several have been pre-programmed, such as “Nice to meet you,” “My name is Patrick” and “Roll Tide.” Other phrases are being added as Mr. Cryar has the need, such as “Amen” and “Hallelujah,” which he uses to encourage the speaker during Bible study.
“He’s never at a loss for a smile, and I’m sure now he will never be at a loss for words,” Mrs. Russell said. “His vibrant personality and gentle spirit touch everyone he meets.”
Grover Williams of Warrenton has gotten to converse with Mr. Patrick. Mr. Williams’ father-in-law Edgar Cook is Mr. Cryar’s roommate.
Mr. Williams is an Auburn fan. Before the Alabama-Auburn game, he teased Mr. Cryar about programming a “War Eagle” into the iPad. Mr. Cryar flatly refused.
Mr. Cryar can use one of 15 voices, but has chosen one that sounds the most natural for him, Mrs. Davis said.
The device helps the staff learn more about Mr. Cryar each day – interesting details such as he likes NASCAR and is a Jeff Gordan fan. They’re also learning information that is critical to his health, such as which medicines cause nausea.
“We were always trying to guess what he needs,” Mrs. Craft said. “Now he can tell us.”
Mrs. Craft works with Mr. Cryar on his communication skills 3 times a week, and the restorative nursing team led by Cindi Barragree helps him on the other days. Right now he’s using pre-programmed phrases, but he can also use the keyboard, which will remove any limits on his conversation abilities, Mrs. Craft said.
“It’s really opened up a whole new world for him,” Mrs. Craft said.
Not only can he communicate with the nursing home staff and residents, but also he is getting an email account so he can stay in touch with relatives when they aren’t able to visit.
“His communication has improved so much,” Mrs. Craft said. “It’s really opened up a lot more social opportunities for him to be able to communicate with the other residents. It’s funny to see their reactions sometimes.”