Pupils receive gift of speech

IPSWICH: For dozens of children in Ipswich the kindness of strangers will today mean the gift of speech.

For many of us, the ability to talk and communicate with our friends and family is taken for granted.

But for thousands of others, medical conditions and learning difficulties can cut them off from their nearest and dearest.

However, today at a specialist school in Ipswich, a “phenomenal” donation from a parent has given students a “life-changing” chance to speak out.

Pupils at Thomas Wolsey School in Defoe Road will now be able to converse with their teachers and classmates after more than �30,000 was donated to fund the purchase of a specialist machine which allows children to communicate with their eyes.

John Mitchell’s seven-year-old daughter Hannah is a pupil at Thomas Wolsey and, inspired to help her communicate, he organised ‘Hannah’s 100’ – a 100km bike ride, completed by 100 people who each raised �100.

There were two events in April, one held in Cambridgeshire cycling along the Fens and the other in Scotland, along the banks of the Forth and Clyde Canal, raising �31,000 in total.

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Mr Mitchell had hoped to buy one of the Eyegaze machines but the generosity of those taking part meant the school is now the proud owner of three.

Headteacher Matthew Brackenbury said the gift will give children a voice.

“It is phenomenal,” he said. “It has surpassed our expectations.

“This will mean children can communicate, they will be able to make choices – it is life-changing.

“It is amazing that parents have organised friends and family to do such a thing in their own time.

“It will have a real impact. Without support like this we would not be able to fund equipment like this.

“It makes a huge difference.”

Mr Brackenbury said the technology used by Eyegaze allows pupils to focus their eyes on to a certain cell or spot on the screen in front of them.

From that the computer, using its cutting edge technology, translates the meaning allowing the children to communicate what they are thinking.

He said: “It really will open up a whole new world for so many children who struggle to use their hands or who cannot speak.

“It is going to be wonderful for the children.”

n Is your child a student at Thomas Wolsey? What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk