Software allows special-needs children to operate computers using eyes


Mackenzie Booren, 12, can't hold a paintbrush up to a canvas, but that doesn't mean she can't paint a picture.

Kenzie was born with an incredibly rare disorder called Trisomy 5P.

She can't speak and can barely move her arms and legs.

"We were told her life expectancy would be about three years, tops," says her mother, Merillee Booren. "She just turned 12 in November."

And Kenzie's doing more than anyone ever expected. She's learning, interacting through a software called Eagle Eyes.

"It takes the electrical signal from her eyes," Merillee explains, "it senses those in the leads on her face, and wherever she's looking, the cursor moves."

Kenzie can operate a computer mouse just by looking - and concentrating - on the screen.

Eagle Eyes uses games to train special-needs children like Kenzie to use their focus to control the computer.

Warsaw Community Schools is the third district in the state, and the only one in our area, to use this technology.

About ten of its special-needs students will now have access to it.

The Boorens moved to Warsaw last year from Utah, where Kenzie was introduced to Eagle Eyes at her elementary school. Boorens bought their own program to use at home shortly after.

When the Boorens moved to Kosciusko County, they told the schools' staff about the software.

Ron Williams, director of training for Eagle Eyes, demonstrated the software on Kenzie in front of Warsaw Community Schools' special education faculty Wednesday.

"If you're non-verbal and can't communicate, you're kind of trapped in this body that doesn't work," Williams explains. "Eagle Eyes gives us the opportunity to access that and find out where they are intellectually."

For Kenzie, it's a way of communicating with the outside world -- and showing her mom she loves her.

Merillee says her favorite animal is the pig. Kenzie knows this, she says, and clicks on the pig in a farm game she likes to play on Eagle Eyes.

"She gave me this big smile, like, 'That was for you, Mom,'" Merillee says. "That's as close as I'm going to get to verbally hearing, 'I love you, Mom,' from my little girl."

The Warsaw district plans to get one set of Eagle Eyes for every single one of its schools.

Families can purchase their own as well; each kit comes with a requested donation of $800.

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