Fundraiser launched for specialist technology to help pupils with language difficulties communicate

A campaign has been launched to help children with speech, language and physical difficulties communicate better

International marathon runner, Mel Edwards MBE, is taking on a new challenge to raise funds to buy specialist Eye Gaze technology to Woodlands school.

The technology would enable pupils with complex and severe additional needs at the school to use their eyes to control an on screen cursor– opening up a world of opportunities for pupils.

The communication tool is a computer based aid with a camera attached that allows the system to pick up what the child is looking at and choose what they would like to do.

Aberdeen City Council Education and Children's Services convener Councillor Angela Taylor said: "We are delighted that Mr Edwards has decided to take on a challenge which will add real benefit to the lives of children with additional support needs.

"Following a remarkable international running career and after a battle with cancer, Mel's efforts to continue to contribute to the Aberdeen community are inspiring.

"We wholeheartedly support his campaign and urge any who can to donate to this special cause."

Mr Edwards, a 73-year-old will run 100 x 100 metres in one day to raise £8,000 for the school and also to mark his tenth year as a cancer survivor.

Mel, who has devoted his life to running, coaching and competing as well as raising funds for charity, said: "I am so grateful to still have the ability to run and I feel very strongly about doing all I can to put something back into the community.

"I chose Woodlands School on recommendation from a family friend, Melanie Macrae, whose son MJ suffers from cerebral palsy.

"My son Myles and his friends recently did a 300 mile cycle challenge for MJ so we are delighted to try and help other children with similar conditions to access vital resources such as Eye-Gaze. It is truly amazing to see what the machine enables people with disabilities to achieve."

Karen Gebbie-Smith, Deputy Head Teacher said: "Eye Gaze is a hugely exciting new technology for us; in fact it is one of the most ground-breaking assistive technologies we have seen.

"Being able to independently access the same software as their friends is very important for our youngsters. Eye Gaze gives every child the opportunity to control a part of their world through play, an essential part of development.

"Adding an exciting new tool to our assistive technologies gives Woodlands another resource to develop and expand children's experiences, and for that we are very thankful to Mel for taking on the challenge."

Mel will split the 100 metre runs into 3 sessions on 13 May – depending on the weather.

Mel can be sponsored at www.totalgiving.co.uk/mypage/100x100