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Apr 29, 2021

Autism Belize Hands Over Tablet to Non-Verbal Siblings

Today, a short handing over ceremony was held at Stella Maris School in Belize City.  Two non-verbal students, who were diagnosed with Hunter’s Syndrome, were gifted a tablet with an app that will help them to communicate at home and school. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Christy Castillo Almeida, Founder/Executive Chair, Autism Belize

“Everyone should be able to express their basic needs. I need to go to the bathroom, I am hungry, I am tired, I feel frustrated. Every child – two, five, fifteen, twenty-five, forty, should be able to do that.”


Duane Moody, Reporting

…the heart-wrenching reality for a number of persons living with special needs. But it is with this in mind that Executive Chair Christy Almeida of Autism Belize decided to pool together the names of non-verbal persons, and gift them with an electronic device equipped with an application that can help to give them a voice.


Christy Castillo Almeida

Christy Castillo Almeida

“I reached out to Stella Maris and I said I need a list of your children, from young to old; there was no age limit who are non-verbal and had no other means of communication. In other words, if they had sign language that’s a form of communication and that’s great, fine. If they were proficient in text, picture exchange communication, that’s great – they have a way to communicate. If they have nothing, I want the list of names. And we got those names and I put them with other parents who have reached out to Autism Belize this month or parents who are in my support group. And we ended up with forty-nine, which is just under fifty. Look at the amount of names in this box of kids, youths, young adults, adults who still do not have a means of communication. And it is one of those things that really broke my heart this month.”


Omar Gonzalez, a student at Stella Maris School, was successfully chosen as the recipient for the tablet, donated to Autism Belize by Cellular World. Omar’s older brother, Kaylon Garcia, who has Hunter’s Syndrome, is also a non-verbal student and will benefit as well from a communication app that will be installed on the device for their use. Their primary caregiver is their grandmother.


Gilda Leslie, Grandmother

“For some reason, I took a sign language course, not knowing that later on in life, I would need it.”


Duane Moody

“So that’s how you guys speak using sign language?”


Gilda Leslie

Gilda Leslie

“Yes, yes. And we have on the cell phone, see it, say it, learn it. And I would play it, put it on, and all of them would – because they come to Stella Maris – and he would say Kaylon what is your ABC and when he see the thing, he would do the action. If you ask him if he is hungry he says no. Well he won’t say no, but he’ll shake his head. So with this tablet, it will be easier because then he would communicate with it.”


Avril Eiley

Avril Eiley, Sales Manager, Cellular World

“It’s not only a tablet, but there is a specific communication app and we also decided to donate this lifetime app for this child. The name of the app is ABAZZ; this one is specifically for android tablets or devices and we are going to have our software technician install that app.”


To assist, Project Speech will provide free virtual parent coaching to the family for six months and teach the grandmother and the boys on how to effectively use the app.  Principal Karema Arnold says that the gesture is priceless.


Karema Arnold

Karema Arnold, Principal, Stella Maris School

“We have many students within our institution who are non-verbal. The plan is to help them get access to such devices to be able to communicate not only at home but also at school and be able to express themselves. Like Miss Christy rightly mentioned, we want them to have an opportunity to express a sense of themselves and have a voice.”


Duane Moody for News Five.


In a related programming note, a special “Autism Belize Show” airs immediately after the news.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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