Members of Evans Girl Scout Troop 195 earned their computer badge Monday through a demonstration from a special expert.
Justin Salter is not a computer programmer or Internet site designer, but instead is a fellow sixth-grader with cerebral palsy who uses a specially-designed computer to speak, tell jokes, do homework and even take tests.
"Can I buy some Girl Scout cookies?" was the first thing Justin told the eight sixth-graders who gathered at Riverside Middle School to see exactly how Justin's computer works.
Justin's cerebral palsy was caused by a lack of oxygen before birth. The palsy, which weakened his muscles, prevents him from walking and talking.
Justin has used a computer to communicate since he was 3, his mother, Heloise Salter, said. The latest version of the computer and wheelchair combination costs about $10,000 and has a mouse in the headrest, allowing Justin to attend school and communicate with teachers and peers.
"They are exposed to computers all the time," said troop co-leader Kathleen Bottomley. "I thought it was an interesting way for the girls to learn how important they are to help other people with disabilities like Justin lead a normal life and be able to communicate."
Justin creates a separate file in his computer for each of his classes. His class paraprofessional sends information home with Justin and his mother puts it into his computer for the next day.
"It is a lot of work involved in everyday school," Salter told the Girl Scouts.
Justin said he's an honor roll student and a member of the school's Beta Club.
Abby Herman, 12, thought Justin's computer was cool, especially that he can use it to talk.
Justin can type in words using a scanning cursor and a mouse in the headrest that he clicks with the back of his head. The words are then spoken through a speaker on his wheelchair.
Hagan Bottomley, 12, has three classes with Justin this year and said he's not only smart, but very funny and is always telling jokes through his computer.
"He's a very happy kid," Hagan said, adding she rarely sees Justin without a smile.
Justin told the Girl Scouts, through the computer speaker, that he is the unofficial mascot for the Greenbrier High School girls basketball team. Team members wear a "J" written on their arm in Justin's honor and each team member gives him a high-five as their names are called to enter the court.
"I attend most of the girls Greenbrier High School basketball games," Justin said. "I am their inspiration and babe magnet."
On Monday, Justin had the attention of a different group of girls, and he made sure to bring each a Valentine.
Knowing how much Justin loves ice cream and movies, the troop gave him gift certificates to Bruster's and movie tickets.
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