A wearable backpack computer is enabling disabled children to 'speak' for the first time.
Several US schools have been testing Xybernaut's Xyberkids machine and have given it nine out of 10 for helping disabled children to better communicate.
The device includes a rugged flat-panel display, portable speakers and a small processing unit. Its icon-based software can be used to help the child 'talk' to others by pressing buttons.
"For a person who has no ability to speak, or limited ability to speak, this is a godsend and they can take it wherever they want to go," co-designer Richard Walfish told US media organisations.
Teachers testing the kit said it helped children with learning difficulties to take part in classroom activities. The hostile behaviour of some of the children disappeared once they could express themselves through the machine.
Autistic children, and those with cerebral palsy or physical disabilities, also showed a good response to the technology.
The only drawback is its hefty price tag: the computer costs nearly $5,000, although the manufacturers are hoping that government grants will bring the price down.
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