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June 05, 1992 - Image 25

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-06-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Photo by Jennifer Finer

tually unable to move.
Speech pathologist Alice
Fell and Dr. Eulenberg set up
a system that allowed David
_to communicate using Morse
Code.
Since then, countless re-
_ quests have come in for such
'customized systems, which ac-
commodate the needs of an in-
dividual user. The systems can
:_ndude a voice appropriate to
age and sex, speak several lan-
, guages or sing. They can adapt
to a user's specific motor skills,
or they can be programmed to
meet the needs of a one-time
occasion,
like Lindsay's bat
.
mitzvah ceremony.
Dr. Eulenberg prepared his
first system for bar mitzvah
- use in 1985. Lee Kweller of
Pittsburgh had cerebral palsy,
but was able to read in both
TT ±rew and English thanks
Dr. Eulenberg's device.
Jriths later, he created an-
-her system for an Israeli boy
bo could move only his head.
Last month, a voice com-
puter designed at the artificial
language lab helped Eugene
Chernyakhovsky of Philadel-
phia celebrate his bar mitzvah.
Eugene, an immigrant from
the Ukraine, is quadriplegic,
but he came with his comput-
er to the synagogue. Dr. Eu-
lenberg designed for him a
'system that spoke in English,
Russian and Hebrew.
"Today is one of the most
special days of my life," Eu-
gene said in his bar mitzvah
speech at Congregation Beth
Am Israel in Penn Valley. "I
am reading Torah, singing
blessings and teaching. I am
doing the things that a Jewish
adult does."
Dr. Eulenberg and his staff
have the capability to design
lust about anything. The only
problem is money.
Just how long he can sus-
> taro the lab is in serious doubt,
Dr. Eulenberg says. "If we
don't find funding soon, we're
_,facing its dissolution."
Though located at the uni-
versity, the lab does not receive
MSU funding. It depends en-
tirely on contracts and dona-
tions.
Customized systems cost be-
=tween $5,000 and $15,000 and
rarely are covered by insur-
‘,
ance. Occasionally, the lab re-
3 ceives grants or donations. If
a family has enough money,
they pick up the bill. If they
don't, Dr. Eulenberg does the

work anyway.
"Parents shouldn't have to
pay a penny just so their chil-
dren are able to speak," he in-
sists. "We should all have
access to speech. Language
tells us what it is to be hu-
man."

I

t's Monday morning inside
the MSU artificial lan-
guage lab. Boxes are piled
to the ceiling (the school re-
cently moved the lab out of one
of its rooms). On the wall hang
pictures of Stevie Wonder and
Leigh Campbell-Earl, the
woman who wanted to sing
lullabies. One of the melodies
she now sings to her daughter
Natalie is "My Girl," appro-
priately adapted for a new
mother.
This is not a place for the ob-
sessively neat. Computer chips
and wires are everywhere,
making sense only to those
well-versed in modern tech-
nology. Blackboards are cov-
ered with Russian (left over
from programming Eugene
Chernyakhovsky's computer).
Dr. Eulenberg spends the
morning looking for computer
companies that might make
donations, visiting with a dis-
abled MSU instructor and go-
ing through the multitude of
messages on his desk. One
caller is seeking help for her
son who was seriously injured
in a car accident; another has
an infant who is brain dam-
aged.
Lunch this day will be a gra-
nola bar.
In the afternoon, Dr. Eu-
lenberg is off to The Event, a
statewide convention for the
disabled, held at a hotel in
East Lansing. One workshop
is called "The Importance of
Having a Voice." The speak-
er is Vicki Caruso, who is us-
ing a system designed at the
artificial language lab.
Ms. Caruso directs her key-
board by moving her head, the
one part of her body over
which she has some control. A
twist to the right moves the
cursor to the right, selecting a
certain word or phrase which
is then "spoken" by the com-
puter. A twist to the left
swings the cursor in the other
direction.
Her presentation indudes a
slide show. As the lights are
dimmed Ms. Caruso says, "It
is a great pleasure for me to be

John Eulenberg with Nicholas Kimball, who is learning to speak with the aid of a computer, and family friend
Cindy Kingsley.

speaking to you today. It is a
great pleasure for me to be
speaking, period."
Ms. Caruso was born with
mucus covering her lungs. It
took physicians 25 minutes to
get her breathing. The result
was cerebral palsy. A twin sis-
ter died at birth.
For many years, Ms. Caru-
so lived in state homes after
her parents put her up for
adoption. She had been diag-
nosed as severely retarded.
A black-and-white picture
of a sweet little girl with dark
hair and an easy smile flash-
es on the screen. "The expres-
sion on my face is so alive," Ms.
Caruso says. "How could any-
one think I was a vegetable?"
She learned to communicate
by staring. If she wanted a

drink, she would look back and
foith at a glass until someone
helped her.
Then when she was 14, "a
miracle happened," Ms. Caru-
so says. A psychologist realized
she was not retarded. She
learned to communicate by
pointing to letters on a large
board, then by placing a point-
er on her forehead and tapping
letters on a typewriter.
Finally, Ms. Caruso met up
with John Eulenberg, whom
she called "the only genius I
know." He created for her an
IBM laptop computer and
voice synthesizer, attached to
Ms. Caruso's wheelchair. Sev-
eral months ago, she graduat-
ed from Schoolcraft College.
After the presentation, fam-
ilies surround Dr. Eulenberg,

TI IF npTANT .IFWISH NFWS

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