A mum has issued a heartfelt call for help to give her disabled 13-year-old son have a voice for the first time.
Ellen Thomas, 35, is trying to raise £4,000 to secure an ‘Eyegaze’ device for her son Leonidas who suffers with severe mental and physical disabilities.
His conditions have limited his speech development, and he struggles to convey his wants and needs, or talk to younger brothers Naffel, nine, and De-Andre, two.
The device would, for the first time in his life, give Leonidas the ability to communicate fully with his family.
Ellen, from Sheffield, said: “What bothers me is that sometimes we just don’t know what Leonidas wants, but this will give him a voice to express his needs clearly, without us playing a guessing game.
“He is very close with his brothers and they do talk in their own way, but for Leonidas to be able to communicate properly with them would be an amazing moment for me.”
Leonidas was born with both spina bifida and hydrocephalus- an accumulation of spinal fluid within the brain.
Only eight hours after being born, Leonidas had to undergo major surgery, and at five weeks old he suffered a brain haemorrhage. He was placed onto life support, and doctors recommended end of life care, but Ellen ignored this advice.
Incredibly, Leonidas pulled through, but the haemorrhage left him with epilepsy and cerebral palsy, which has impeded his speech significantly.
Leonidas still loves being around people, attending the Sheffield Boxing Centre with his stepdad Sam Sheedy, 32, a former Commonwealth Middleweight Champion.
However, the Eyegaze device would enable Leonidas to socialise independently.
He would be able to use his eyes to control the device, selecting symbols which would then string together sentences, allowing Leonidas to interact without anyone translating.
The family have already raised £1,400 through raffles, bake sales and a crowdfunder, but their efforts have been hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
There is still a long way to go to reach their target and Ellen admitted she had been touched by the generosity of their community.
“It is nerve wracking to ask strangers for help, especially with what is going on in the world,” she said. “Leonidas isn’t the only child that needs help, but the kindness from people has been amazing.”