by Heather Smith
Samuel Sennott’s commitment to improving the lives of disabled people began with a life-changing volunteer experience. Caring for babies with cerebral palsy and adults with developmental disabilities at Michael Carter Lisnow Respite Center in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, inspired Sennott (pictured at top right), who graduated from Gordon in 2004 with an education major, to transform others’ lives.
With the help of colleague David Niemeijer, Sennott has recently released an application for the iPod Touch or iPhone that provides a complete communication system for the disabled. Created specifically for those with little or no ability to speak, the Proloquo2Go will revolutionize the way that autism, stroke, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and Lou Gehrig’s Disease patients live.
Proloquo2Go lives up to its name (proloquo means “speak out loud” in Latin) with close to 8,000 symbols that prompt text-to-speech communication for voicing needs, wants, greetings and comments. Users can easily chat with friends, answer questions or tell stories using given phrases or typing their own with the small hand-held device.
VocaSpace, Sennott’s innovative vocabulary, provides a default word base of 7,000 with full expandability. Featuring automatic verb conjugation, automatic plurals and possessives for nouns, and a one-button addition of new vocabulary words, VocaSpace allows users of all ages to fully express themselves.
In addition to basic and expansive vocabulary, Proloquo2Go also includes a MySpace feature which allows users to choose personal vocabulary buttons to communicate food and clothing choices, medical needs, music preferences and fun things to do.
The iPhone/iPod Touch platform is ideal for its size and portability, and it is a cost-effective alternative to more expensive speech-generating devices. The application will soon be enhanced to include more voices and languages.
Sam recalls Dr. Stella Pierce as one of the Gordon faculty members who helped him both learn teaching skills and keep his head up in the process. “One time in particular I had taught a lively, rowdy group of learners for an observed lesson and felt discouraged afterward. She helped me reframe the situation, and communicated that she believed in me. As I have found increasing success with my students and my work, I have often reflected on how key Dr. Pierce’s mentorship was to my formation as a teacher. This level of faculty/student engagement is what makes Gordon such a terrific community.”
After graduating with a dual certification degree in special education and elementary education, Sennott got his first Mac and started teaching. “Seeing how I could leverage good teaching with technology to completely change outcomes for my students made me hungry for knowledge.”
Sennott is currently pursuing a doctorate in special education at Pennsylvania State University, focusing on augmentative communication, literacy, and universal design for learning.
Quotes from “An Interview with Sam Sennott” on the blog Teaching All Students (5/22/09), edited by Patrick Black. Used by permission. More information on the Proloquo2Go is available at www.proloquo2go.com and at www.alltogetherwecan.com.