James is 4 years old and has vocal chord palsy which means that he can only speak with a very quiet voice, due to a paralysed vocal chord. It is less of a problem at home, but when there is any background noise, it is extremely difficult to hear him, particularly at school and when out and about in his wheelchair and the car.
Commercial amplifiers are designed for adults and found to be too cumbersome for a small child. A small custom built microphone, pre-amplifier and speaker were made for the client to wear attached to a belt. The wire from the microphone to the amplifier can run under the client’s outer clothing. Several microphones were provided, including one that was modified to clip onto the client’s spectacles, and one that incorporated straps to help hold the microphone in place.
James can now communicate without straining his weak vocal cords. In the words of his mother: “We are still getting on really well with the voice amplifier. It has made car journeys much better as we can actually hear [him]! Equally, the frustration when he is in his wheelchair is hugely reduced. However, by far the biggest impact has been at school. He is talking with his peers now and is happy to speak up in class. I love this story his teacher told me – he came back into the classroom wearing his mic and with the volume turned up and announced to the class ‘I’m back!!!’ He could/would never have done that before.
He can be heard in the classroom and so can contribute independently to discussions and whole group work, rather than having to having to rely on the voice of his [one-to-one teaching assistant]. This too has helped his confidence.
He can be more independent as we now feel more confident that we will hear him if he needs help – rather than having to keep him in sight at all times.”