AAC Inspiration

Inspiration for AAC users

Graham Clarke

This is a story of inspiration for all parents, therapists and AAC users. Graham, who suffered a major stroke as a young man, refused to give up. Through his strong determination and the support from his parents Graham took the journey into the world of AAC. One that has not always been easy but as he says, one that, “has changed his life.” He is able to express his thoughts independantly, have conversations, use the internet and deliver speeches.  

Graham’s Story

I can’t find enough words to describe how the Liberator (a dedicated, high tech AAC device) has changed my life. To sum it up – I am a person again,” expresses Graham Clarke from Cape Town.

Graham is a man full of adventure and has had some incredible experiences throughout his life. He grew up in a small town just outside of Durban, South Africa with his brother and two wonderful parents. Graham did a years military service, which lead him to study public health and work in this field. Sometime later he decided to accept a position as a weather reader on Marion Island, a remote South African weather station half way between South Africa and Antarctica.

While Graham was working on Marion Island, a very isolated island, he had time to do some “soul searching” and decided he should go back to college to study something in the disability field, such as, biomedical engineering, social work, or occupational therapy. Graham then fell seriously ill on Marion Island and had to be rescued by a Navy ship. After numerous tests, doctors established that he had had a massive stroke, which has left him completely paralysed and speechless.

Head brace with 2 switches (how I started)

My disability was (has been) the biggest challenge I ever faced as it was such a shock to wake up one day and find myself in another world. I overcame it — well, there are times when I don’t feel as though I am winning at all. Let’s say I regularly overcome it by returning to the basics and building myself back up again through determination. I am not going to lose this fight.”

For several years after he lost his speech, he just used an alphabet chart for communication and it was not until a student at Cape Town University majoring in computer science told him about a new “talking computer,” the Light Talker. “I was so excited because it would eventually mean that I would be in control of my communication. He obtained the Light Talker some months later and has now moved to the Liberator. “These are incredible little computers,” he adds, “which have allowed me to regain my place in this world.  

He contributes success to God, or “a higher power above as others may prefer,” and to having determination and believing in himself. Graham says, “Without God I don’t believe I would have had the strength to overcome such a predicament.” Secondly, he is thankful for his mother’s and family’s support and that they believed in him from the beginning. He is also thankful for his own “makeup” that has been etched in him from his youth. “We were taught to NEVER give up,” says Graham.

 We want to express our thanks to Graham for sending his story to us and hope that it will give hope to others who are searching.