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Communication Hope through Assistive Technology (CHAT)

Overview

Imagine you are a young person, but you cannot communicate through speech. At school, you do not have the technological and other supports necessary to allow you to interact with the world around you. You have not been offered a way to interact with your teachers, friends and family.

Mission

Assist youth with disabilities who communicate using technology to open their voices to the world

Vision Statement

  • To empower these children to become more involved and assimilated in their family and community. They will develop a voice that can be heard. They will learn that they have the right to partake in all aspects of life.
  • To guide parents and families so they are empowered to help their children communicate with those around them.
  • To form new community opportunities among CHAT members while sharing friendship, fun, and learning.
  • To create a model for CHAT Camp and CHAT Club that can be replicated at other schools and teaching establishments locally, nationally and globally. With the reach of the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI), CHAT will share the imagination, ability, and creativity of people who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) with the world.

Explanation

AAC devices give children who are unable to use their voice effectively the ability to share their needs, wants, feelings, choices and opinions with their family and community. Examples of AAC range from simple communication picture boards to advanced devices using eye gaze technology such as the Tobii I Series.

CHAT formed when Barb and Greg Tresness contributed $100,000 to the BBI at Syracuse University to launch a program to assist youth with disabilities that affect their verbal communication. The couple worked for more than a decade to find a way for their son Graham to communicate. They are here to share the knowledge they’ve cultivated and resources they’ve gained to benefit others.


The Inspiration

Imagine you are a young person, but you cannot communicate through speech. At school, you do not have the technological and other supports necessary to allow you to interact with the world around you. You have not been offered a way to interact with your teachers, friends and family.

For Graham Tresness, a young man with cerebral palsy, speech may not be possible, but imagination, creativity and the ability to learn are boundless. Graham uses eye gaze technology to communicate. He is one example of a young person with a disability who, through courage, perseverance and devoted family and friends, seeks to live a full and productive life.

Graham is the inspiration behind CHAT! His parents, Barb and Greg, generously contributed $100,000 to the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University to launch CHAT. The program is to assist youth with disabilities that affect their verbal communication to open their voices to the world. The couple worked for more than a decade to find a way for their son to communicate, and they tirelessly advocate for him and other children with disabilities

“It was a challenge to get to where we are today and we still have a long way to go,” said Barb and Greg. “We traveled far and wide to find resources, and we hope our journey will make it easier for other families in our community. With CHAT at BBI, the nonverbal community will benefit tremendously.”

Download the CHAT Brochure [PDF]

Partners