WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., June 10, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- This Father's Day, three dads reflect on the gifts their children have given them - as well as the world.
Paul Pauca's son inspired him to create a tool to help him communicate despite the boy's genetic disorder, and he has shared it internationally. Eric Wilson thanks his daughter for giving him the strength to manage his depression, and he now travels the country trying to impart that strength to others struggling with the disease. And, because of his teenage son's avid use of technology, Ananda Mitra helps other parents communicate more openly with their own children, often in 140 characters or less.
FINDING A VOICE
What started as a father's desire to help his special-needs son has turned into an international mission to help parents all over the world communicate with their disabled children. That's the story of Wake Forest University computer science professor Paul Pauca, whose six-year-old son Victor was born with a rare genetic disorder called Pitt-Hopkins syndrome that makes it difficult for him to communicate. Pauca and a team of students developed a new iPhone and iPad application, called VerbalVictor, to provide an affordable alternative to expensive communication devices on the market. The app, available for $6.99, includes many of the same communication options as devices costing thousands of dollars. "Our app is similar to the more expensive device in that you can take a picture of an item and create different button layouts depending on the motor control of the child. You can even record your own voice on it," Pauca said. Since debuting in January, VerbalVictor has been down loaded nearly 2,000 times, and Pauca has gotten positive feedback from grateful parents across the globe. "I have received emails from Korea, India, Switzerland and other countries," he said. "Hearing from so many people has created a huge desire to make this kind of application a big aspect of my research. It has become a calling. Because of my son, I have found my mission to help give a voice to those without one." He is working on four other apps for special-needs children, including one for paraplegics.
STRENGTH THROUGH THE STRUGGLE
Eric Wilson's daughter gave him hope, though she never really knew it. She gave him the will to live - to stop contemplating suicide and to seek the therapy that would help him find the right diagnosis and treatment for his depression. She gave him relief. Now Wilson, an English professor at Wake Forest, uses his passion for the written word to pass his daughter's gift to others. Through books including "The Mercy of Eternity: A Memoir of Depression and Grace" and "Against Happiness," Wilson has described his struggle with depression and encouraged others not to give up their search for treatment. He travels the country, talking about his experience with depression in the hopes of connecting with others who might not see hope. "I want to help people burdened with depression find their inspiration to get well," he said, "just as my daughter helped to inspire me."
TALKING THE TALK
Unlike many parents, Ananda Mitra says his 16-year-old son's avid use of Textese - abbreviations commonly used in text messages and on social networks, such as "LOL" - has strengthened their bond. That's because Mitra, as chair of the Communication Department at Wake Forest, believes the best way parents can reach their children is to embrace the language they use most comfortably. "With more than 1300 text message abbreviations, children of the digital age are born bilingual," said Mitra. "Because language establishes relationships, texting 'I <3 U' sends a very powerful message to kids." In addition to advocating that parents tailor their communication style to one that's most effective for their kids, his book "Alien Technology" makes the case that becoming more technologically savvy is also an issue of safety. "Parents who lock the door when leaving the house should make the same effort to understand Facebook privacy issues," said Mitra. Through his research, teachings and social media interactions, Mitra hopes to impart lessons inspired by his son to other parents born in an analog age.
So, for Father's Day, these three men can't help but celebrate their children, vital gifts their kids have given them, and how they have turned them around to help people all over the world.
This news release was issued on behalf of Newswise(TM). For more information, visit http://www.newswise.com.
SOURCE Wake Forest University