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New Eye-Gaze Computer Helps Non-Verbal Girl Communicate

STUDIO CITY ( – A rare genetic disorder took away a preschooler's ability to speak. But thanks to technology, she has found her voice again.

Maggie Tessler stopped talking when she was two and a half years old. She was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome--a rare neurological disorder that almost exclusively affects girls, about one in 10,000.

"Over the course of probably four months, words were just dropping off," said mother JennyTessler.

"Whenever there's something wrong, they can't tell you what's wrong. You have no idea if they're hungry; if they're thirsty; if they're hurt," said Maggie's father, A.J. Tessler. "There's a thousand problems they can have. You just can't know how to help them."

Maggie is now four and a half years old. She is unable to write or use sign language because she is unable to use her hands.

With the help of with an eye-gaze computer called the Tobii, Maggie is able to communicate with her parents again.

"The Tobii operates with two cameras down at the bottom, that by some logarithm, calibrate to the irises in your eyes," said Susan Norwell, education specialist. "And so you're able to look at something on the screen. And the cameras pick up your eyes and then activate the screen."

Since Maggie can't read yet, the Tobii has pictures and images. With a lot of practice and trial and error, Maggie is communicating again.

Now that the girl is accustomed to using the eye-gaze computer, she is able to vocalize again and make sounds. She recently said: "momma and dada."

"Just to be able to hear voice, it's really exciting for us because we literally have been living in silence for so long," her father said.

He shows how Tobii works on YouTube, where the family shares regular video updates and offers support and hope for other families also affected by Rett Syndrome.

Experts say children diagnosed with the disorder often have typical early growth, but then their development slows down. They often lose the use of their hands, show intellectual disability, display slowed brain development, have trouble walking and suffer from seizures.

Maggie's family hopes offering a look into their lives will encourage others to help support research into finding a cure for the disorder. So far, they've raised almost $70,000. Their goal is $100,000. Click here if you would like to donate.

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