No parent wants to hear a diagnosis like the one the Paucas heard but Paul Pauca has taken the challenge to heart and found a way to improve his young son’s life.
Paul and his wife sensed there was something wrong when their son, Victor was just one year old. The diagnosis of the rare developmental and cognitive condition known as Pitt Hopkins Syndrome at the age of 2 and a half years old was heartbreaking. It meant their son would continue to have delays in speech and motor skill development. Only 18- cases are known worldwide.
Paul, a Peruvian born software engineering professor, describes the news as world shattering, plunging the family into darkness. His wife, Theresa, a special education teacher, helped him focus on what was important by explaining that he could let the diagnosis make him bitter of better.
Back in his classroom at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, Paul enlisted the assistance of his students in developing an iPhone app that would help kids like Victor. Other devices that help kids with speech development issues can cost from $300 to more than $8000.
The Verbal Victor app developed by his team sells for just $6.99 in the Apple iTunes store. A child can hear a familiar voice, usually that f a family member, talking to him. Like the buttons on a mobile phone, the app has buttons – pictures of familiar items. When the child presses one, they will hear the voice say a word of short sentence like “I want to eat.” The messages can be recorded on any language too.
Four years after the app hit the market, Pauca’ life has taken an expected turn. Working as an international advocate for Pitt Hopkins, he is also working on developing other mobile apps for kids and adults with a variety of disabilities. It has changed the lives of his family too. He and his wife have since started a foundation and his daughters are doing what they can to make a difference in the world too.
The app has transformed Victor’s life too. After learning to walk at the age of two, Victor, can now ride his trike, and play on the swing set. Lively, social and very curious, Victor enjoys being read to. He uses the app to indicate the things he wants. He knows that pushing a button will bring a desired result. Now father and son can communicate with ease.