Ajay's Story

Published: 01/08/2019 21:19

Name: Brandon (Ajay) Guevara
Age: 15
Home: Galena, Ohio
Product: Tobii Dynavox I-12+ 
Condition: TK2-related mitochondrial depletion syndrome

Brandon Guevara—who loves to be called Ajay—is a math wiz, huge basketball fan and close follower of world events.  Watch out—he’s equally competitive at academics (math is his best subject) and zapping his opponents’ avatars in video games.

A soon-to-be high school sophomore, Ajay loves to learn not just by reading, writing and observing but by participating. Others enjoy helping him find ways to expand his horizons, such as using the Tobii Dynavox I-12+ that gives him a voice. Speaking is tough for Ajay because of a hereditary condition known as TK2-related mitochondrial depletion syndrome that causes progressive muscle weakness and respiratory issues. While familiar listeners understand his short verbalizations, he enjoys greater independence in self-expression through the technology.

“Communication with other people is great,” his mother Karla says when asked to share her thoughts on his newest Tobii Dynavox device. He can tell his home nurse how he’s feeling and show the world his sense of humor.

Speech-language pathologist Anne Farrel of the Olentangy Local School District has worked with Ajay periodically since elementary school. She saw his flair for language by his command of the Tobii Dynavox Maestro he used before. Together with Ajay’s IEP team and parents, they decided the I-12+ would be the best fit when it came time for a new device so she moved forward with the formal recommendation.

As he did with the Maestro, Ajay runs the I-12+ by pushing a switch with his toes. He scans the device’s language content with his left foot, then chooses his words with his right foot. The mechanics, Ms. Farrel said, are smoother than ever. “Ajay has benefited tremendously from the advancements in technology.”

Teacher Ryan Griffin says the technology gives Ajay access to some of the same curriculum as other students, noting that this is exactly what parents want. Mr. Griffin is an intervention specialist/home instructor with Olentangy whose daily lessons with Ajay usually start with a question: “What’s going on in the world?”

“We do a lot of things that involve the surrounding world and what everyone else is doing.” Mr. Griffin said. In other words, they seize every teachable moment, like when they moved their classroom outdoors during the August 2017 solar eclipse. 

They had fun using scores and stats from the NCAA March Madness basketball tournaments as a basis for practicing fractions, percentages, skip counting and an array of math skills. Around this time, a group effort among staff and students that made is possible for Ajay to attend his first high school basketball game and root for the Olentangy Bears in person.   

A winning spirit is driving Ajay’s communication journey. His goals involve learning to use the I-12+’s environmental control features so he can work home electronics on his own, and mastering sentence construction and punctuation. As Ms. Farrel and Mr. Griffin note, what teacher wouldn’t appreciate that the device does not speak until the user puts a period at the end of a sentence?

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