DJ Cibor loves playing outside, experimenting with recipes inspired by the Food Network, surfing the web and pulling off good-natured practical jokes – especially involving his teachers.
But the 10-year-old also has some challenges that a lot of other boys his age don’t face. Because of cerebral palsy, he has visual difficulties, uses a power wheelchair and finds it hard to control his hands and his head movements.
When DJ first met Easter Seals Assistive Technology Specialist Kate Ahern three years ago, he was unable to use a computer, even with help. Since then, as Kate says, “DJ and I have been on quite a journey.”
Working closely, Kate and DJ tried out a long list of devices to help him control the computer. Finally, they found the right combination – a specially adapted joystick for his right hand, a head switch to “click” and an on-screen keyboard designed just for him.
It has been a long, slow process but with the support of his family, his educational team and Kate, DJ never gave up. In fact, his progress and continued determination were rewarded with the 2015 Richard A. LaPierre Pioneer Award.
Now in the fifth grade in Shirley, DJ is able to do his schoolwork independently and with a teacher, and he’s better able to work in small groups and one-on-one. He’s trying some new math and reading programs and also uses the computer to access adaptive books.
Kate regularly consults with DJ’s teachers and therapists, and spends time adapting the general education curriculum to meet his needs. She also meets with his parents to ensure that his home computer is working well and his technology needs are being met. Additionally, she trains DJ’s classroom aide on the software and programs he uses.
“With Kate’s help, it’s amazing how he has just blossomed,” said Patti Cibor, DJ’s mother. “We’ve always known DJ’s potential, but not how to best help him communicate all the knowledge he has. I can’t imagine Easter Seals not being in DJ’s future as he grows and wants to access even more academically.”
“I believe in the work Easter Seals does,” Patti continued. “With DJ, it was phenomenal.”
The Easter Seals services DJ receives have been made possible by a partnership with the Ayer Shirley Regional School District.