Cadillac News // August 26, 2020

Teen with rare conditions receives high-tech device and adaptive bike

By Joshua Roose of Cadillac News

CADILLAC — Wesley Gibson was born with anophthalmia and agenesis of the corpus callosum — that is, without eyes and without the part of the brain that connects the hemispheres. Wesley has made remarkable progress rising above these challenges and the generosity of others have helped him rise even higher.

Doctors predicted that Wesley may never walk or speak, but Wesley defied the odds. He learned to talk and sing and took his first steps at age three. Despite his remarkable progress, Wesley began to lose ground as he grew older. He stopped speaking and experienced a great deal of frustration as a result.

Janet Gibson, Wesley’s mother, said that part of the reason for this change was explained by subsequent diagnoses of selective mutism and autism.

The Accent 1000, a high-tech talking device available through Wesley’s school, helped Wesley. His mood improved as he regained the ability to communicate through the device, and he began to say some words again, too.

The Accent 1000 resembles an iPad at first glance: it has a touchscreen and is a similar size. One important difference is a plastic grid on top of the screen with bumps so Wesley can feel where his hands are on the screen, similar to the home row on a typewriter. After constructing a sentence, the device will announce what Wesley wants to say.

“He has to make the sentences, and he has to say all the things he wants. There’s not one button that says like, ‘I want to go home,’ or ‘I need to go to the bathroom,’" Janet said. “He uses his talking device to let us know when he wants to eat or what he wants to eat."

The only problem was this device was a loaner from Wesley’s school, and Janet was trying to find Wesley a device of his own. However, this device retails for more than $7,000, and Janet applied for one through Chive Charities after hearing how they had helped another Michigan child born without eyes.

Chive Charities worked to make sure that Wesley would never be without his talking device, and it didn’t take long before Wesley received his own Accent 1000.

“He loves his talking device," Janet said. “He plays with it, and does his math on it. He tells us he wants to go on an airplane."

Good news did not stop there for the Gibsons. “I finished my Chive Charities application for this talking device, and then it just so happened to be that one of my friends talked me into trying to apply for this bike, for an adaptive bike," Janet said. “It was a device that I had been wanting and looking for for years, so that we could get back into running 5Ks or going for walks."

Janet explained that she had applied for a similar bike in the 2015 Great Bike Giveaway but didn’t win that year. After reapplying for the Great Bike Giveaway this year, Wesley finally won.

“Instead of winning through votes, the community stepped up and all donated, so we were awarded this adaptive bike," Janet said. “He is joyous that we have something that he can walk and go for a bike ride, so that’s making him super happy."

Janet said she was thrilled about the generosity shown toward Wesley. “Not only our friends, but just other people in the community and complete strangers have helped Wesley get these things," Janet said. “Some really good things have happened, and I’m thankful to the community that continues to support us. It’s just great."