For teenagers, expression is a challenge. You're going through so many changes that it can be hard to say just what, exactly, you're feeling. I remember while growing up the everyday frustration that came with feeling as though I wasn't being heard or understood.
15 year-old Raymond Lara puts all of that angst into perspective. Cerebral Palsy and assorted complex medical issues have made speech impossible for Lara. Until this Christmas, when his parents -- with some help from the Make-a-Wish Foundation -- were able to give him a "voice" for the first time in his life.
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Lara had been working with a therapist to communicate using a speech-generating machine with hands-free technology. This amazing machine records a digital portrait of the user's eye, then captures the user's gaze on the computer screen. He or she can use his or her eyes to interact with the computer and generate words and sentences.
This wasn't an easy, over-night fix. It required a lot of hard work. Lara's involuntary eye movement makes using the machine difficult, and the insurance company wasn't able to work with his family to acquire one for him permanently. This discouraging news must have made him feel like all his hard work was in vain.
Here's where Make-A-Wish stepped in. They gifted Lara with the hands-free communication device he had been working so hard to master. Now, for the first time, he's able to express basic wants to his family. He's also, his mother says, proven to be a little bit of a flirt, using the "Pretty Lady" symbol a little too regularly -- just like any other teenager.
This was more than just an ordinary gift. Lara's parents essentially threw their son a lifeline. That beats any other Christmas present, no matter its bells and whistles. With their help and strength, he is one step closer to living a normal life. This is something his family desperately wanted for him, and something they haven't ruled out. His father jokingly talks about the day his son will cheer for their favorite sports' team.
Have you ever received a gift that changed your life forever?
Image via asenate29/Flickr