CSD 823X S10
Reactions to "A Gift For Serena"

Nicholas Hugh Craft     It is such a long process to figure out what type of AAC device is appropriate for individuals who need them, and this family seemed like they tried everything they could without success, until hearing about the artificial language lab.  Sometimes using technology is not enough and does not guarantee a quick way to communicate.  Serena still needed to count and use her memory to coordinate the number of head clicks to each word, or phrase. Even with all this work, even without a synthetic or digitized voice, the head clicking and counting was enough to give her a voice.  It doesn’t always have to be a perfect fix, just as long as a message is conveyed.  The family was real emotional and proud that she was capable of using what worked.
    The siblings of Serena cared for her very much but they also talked about how difficult it was caring for her.  I thought it was interesting to see how diverse each child was, Serena’s parents seemed to be taking in all kinds of children with different backgrounds and they all worked well with Serena and each other.  Great film.

Allison Ann Dery The movie "A Gift for Serena" proved to the audience how special verbal communication is. Although Serena already had a switch board that displayed her emotions, verbally expressing her same thoughts created a fuller effect on her intended audience. Just watching her mother when she said, "Mom, I love you" really presents this point clearly.
It was also interesting to note that Serena's switchboard was highly technical but still lacked the necessary components to allow for a message to be presented concisely and efficiently. The teacher continued to struggle with understanding Serena's message even after gathering the components of the message. It is unfortunately a guessing game that speech pathologists and teachers have to enter in to communicate with an individual using an inefficient means of communication.
I cannot express how amazed I was when I heard the verbal communication exchange between Serena and the other individual with a AAC device. His language and depth of word usage was quite amazing and his ability to control his output was exceptional. I hope that Serena was able to benefit from her experiences with that individual.
Overall, I beginning to see how communication devices have evolved from simple boards with words and letters to more sophisticated programs that allow the individual to use switches to express words and phrases.

Allison Dery
Mary Margaret Gebbia-Portice
My reactions to the Serena video were different and the same as when I watched previous videos. The knowledge that I have gained as we've proceeded through the course has already changed how I react to such scenarios. I found myself wondering if the teacher shown early in the video was doing the right thing when she was putting words in Serena's mouth. It seemed that the teacher was maybe going a little too far with anticipating what Serena wanted to say, especially when she was assigning emotions to Serena. I find myself analyzing and thinking of different solutions as I now watch these videos.
I also was drawn to Serena's reactions and elation and what seemed to be relatively small accomplishments. I could imagine that my expectations, if I were in the situation of being Serena's helper, would be quite high. I would expect to be able to solve her communication challenges and to give her technology that would help her communicate fairly easily and quickly. What I noticed, however, was Serena's elation at even the smallest of advancements. Her reactions just emphasize how critical it is to help individuals with cerebral palsy in any way that we possibly can. Even though we may not be able to solve all the problems and make their lives easy, we can still make small improvements that could truly mean the world to one individual.
I was also impressed and encouraged to see Jim Brooks working in a lab and being quite productive. Like Jim Renuk, Jim Brooks had to be surrounded by supportive and encouraging individuals in order for him to be able to have the opportunity to work in a lab. This situation just emphasizes how we as individuals can again, truly make a huge difference in the life of one individual.
And, finally, there was a moment in the movie when the overall topic of communication was addressed. What is the true definition of communication? As speaking and hearing individuals, we assume communication means talking and listening. Of course, this is not the case. Serena was able to communicate without words, just as we all are. That raises the question that many deaf individuals raise: Who is to say that there is something "wrong" with this person? Just because an individual cannot communicate in the manner in which we expect them to communicate, it doesn't mean that there is something "wrong" or "less than" about this person. We must ALWAYS remain open-minded and creative in our approach to individuals and solutions to their quests.
Leathia Hodge

Jessica Marie Kaman I really enjoyed watching the video about Serena. It showed the importance of AAC and how it positively affects people's lives. Before Serena had her talking machine, she couldn't say exactly what she was thinking. Because of this, she was considered 'mentally retarded' (cognitively impaired). In reality, Serena is very intelligent and has cerebral palsy, she is not cognitively impaired at all. I am glad this video portrayed that aspect. Often the stereotype is people who can't talk are unintelligent. When Dr. Eulenberg has Serena use her head to hit a pedal to produce words, she understands it all. It was really touching that she finally got to tell her mom that she loved her. I cannot even imagine never being able to say 'I love you' to someone as important as my mom. Serena looks at her mom and says, ' I love you mom, yes.' This was such a touching moment as a viewer and I could also tell that Serena's mom was extremely moved. She began crying because all she wanted was her daughter to call her 'mom.' It shows how important family is and why AAC can be a bonding force that can help people express their deepest emotions.
Andrea Marie Kujawa Video Reactions

I noticed most during this film the family dynamic.  Serena's family deeply desired to see her communicate and share with them.  It was very touching to see the brothers and sisters share how they felt about Serena being able to communicate, as well as the mother wishing that Serena could say her name and that she loves her.  The support system she had through her family during this process was a large component of the film.  I am curious to what communication is available to her now in the present time. This film also presented another concept of communication: that communication is not only through speech.  People can communicate through eye contact, by being in tune with the person, and other ways as well.
Chelsea Rebecca Adler Marks

I loved watching A Gift for Serena. Without the open and loving support from her parents Serena would have never had the ability to communicate. It is interesting to see that people pushed her to work and achieve her personal goals. The devotion given to Serena from her parents allowed them to finally hear her communicate I love you mom. For her parents, it was a wonderful experience, which lead to many tears of happiness. Her parents even say that she has brought love and closeness to the family. This movie allows the world to see that love and devotion from family and friends opens many doors of opportunity into the world. It also presents the information that people often victimize those who may be different. But it is important to understand that those with conditions aren’t victims. Its about what humans can and are capable of doing if given the right opportunities.

Amanda Marie Vanhuysse

I can only imagine how hectic Serena's home life is with 8 children and 2 very large dogs. But I can tell how supportive her family is of her and their desire to communicate with her. It is very important for someone to have a good home support system to facilitate her growth in communication. The system she used seemed to work well for yes/no responses, but for her to say I love you, she would have to push it 9 times and that would take a long time. She did seem very smart though and was able to catch on fairly quickly. I'm interested to see what advances she's had with her communication because I am sure with the right device she can go very far.