Posts in 2009
Brandon Woolridge

“This is like somebody telling you that you’ve won the lottery!” said Linda Woolridge, when she learned that her son, Brandon, was a 2010 Eric Fund grant award winner.

“This is really going to make a difference!”

James-Cyrus “Brandon” Woolridge is a 16-year-old high school junior from Silver Spring, Md. with high-functioning autism and dysgraphia, which prevents him from being able to write by putting pen to paper. 

But being diagnosed with his condition at age seven did not dampen the passion Brandon has for writing. Described by his mom as “an up-and-coming author of the future,” Brandon, a fan of science fiction and fantasy, loves to use his endless imagination to write his own stories.  But to do so is a physical challenge for Brandon – and his mom. Whether he wishes to write a story or do his homework, Brandon dictates his work to his mother who transcribes it for him. Linda says it is not uncommon for both of them to stay up until midnight each weekday to complete Brandon’s nightly homework,  even though they start right when he gets home from school.

The Eric Fund has granted Brandon his own laptop and software, including a voice recognition program that will allow Brandon to “speak” his homework and stories with the computer transcribing them for him. Brandon has had great success using the software at school, however, since the equipment belongs to the school system, Brandon cannot take it home and he cannot use it once he graduates. Linda is thankful not only for the immediate difference The Eric Fund grant will make to help Brandon pursue his writing and complete his schoolwork, but also for prospects it holds for his future as he pursues a career as a journalist and author. “[The Eric Fund grant] is going to make him more independent and be able to rely on himself more at home and at school. Then it will make college an easy transition.”

2009Nate Nashawardee
Malik Studivant
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When 7-year-old Malik Studivant began using a Spring-board voice output device last school year, his expressive language skills greatly improved, according to his teachers. Now, The Eric Fund is happy to help Malik continue to grow and express himself with a Springboard device of his own that he can use at home as well as at school. 

Malik, who has autism, is being raised by his grandmother in Washington, DC. She said while she knows the equipment would make the world of difference for her grandson, the expensive price tag was beyond her budget.  

In the year that  Malik has been using the Springboard at school, his spontaneous verbal language has increased, and he has even been observed repeating speech output from his device. The Springboard will provide Malik with greater opportunity for functional communication and greater interaction with his teachers and peers.  He will also be able to make his wants and needs known, indicate his physical and emotional state and engage in social interactions with his peers and caregivers.  

In addition to working with his voice device, Malik enjoys music, puzzles, blocks and the computer.   He also enjoys gross motor activities, with examples of his favorites being the swings and slide on the playground, as well as interactive books, board games and cause and effect computer games. The Eric Fund wishes Malik every success with his new equipment.

2009Nate Nashawardee
Kathleen Thomas
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Kathleen Thomas has remained positive and courageous since she was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.  Her involvement with the ALS Foundation has provided her with opportunities to use technology to learn to accomplish the tasks of daily living and also helps keep her focused on her goals and dreams. She relies on her loving and supportive family to meet her daily care needs which continue to increase as her ALS progresses. 

Kathleen is the mother of three high school-aged children whom she continues to help with their homework and care for to the extent that she is able. Until now, she has had to rely on an old laptop with switch access and amplified speakers to help her be more independent and to interact with her family. 

The DC/MD/ VA chapter of the ALS Foundation had provided the equipment and training that she needs to accomplish this, but they are unable to update the equipment to meet her changing needs. The Eric Fund is pleased to be able to provide Kathleen with EZ Keys software, and a new computer with an Intel operating system to run it on. EZ Keys XP allows the user to do everything from typing a letter, to engaging in conversation with a friend, to exploring the worldwide web and is used effectively by people with a wide range of disabilities. (World-renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking uses the software to communicate and deliver lectures around the world.) With training from the local ALS chapter, Kathleen is getting more confident in the use of her new equipment every day and was thrilled to be granted the opportunity to increase her independence. 

As an awardee of The Eric Fund, Kathleen plans to use her new software and computer to continue to write poetry, assist her children with homework, and remain active in everyday life. 

2009Nate Nashawardee