Paxtoncrafts Charitable Trust was formed in 2000 after a favourite uncle suffered a stroke, robbing him of his speech and the ability to read and write. His intellect was unimpaired, but he found it very frustrating being unable to communicate to friends and family.
Several of our family had careers in the IT industry so we were surprised to discover that technology at this time was of little help. Communication devices were available, but very expensive, which meant speech and language therapists rarely encountered them and had little knowledge of this area. Nor was there any formal assessment process that would show whether a particular device was suitable.
Therapists had low expectations of Uncle Ray's future ability to communicate but this was more about the lack of tools and options at their disposal, and not his potential or motivation.
He resigned himself, good-naturedly, in his final few years to communicating with us in his own form of sign language.
In recognising this to be a nationwide, even global problem, it seemed appropriate to do some thing about it. Garry and Liz Paxton, as committed Christians, formed the charity in order to address this need, with Garry leaving his IT career to move full time into the field of Augmentative and Alternative Communication.
Supported by trustees and volunteers with specialist skills in the special needs sector, many bespoke speech and communication programs were created for elderly patients who had suffered a stroke (and had been referred to us by our local speech and language department) while our work at Southview Special school in Essex resulted in our working alongside youngsters with conditions such as cerebral palsy. We developed communication tools related to their social communication needs but additionally the curriculum requirements for each Key Stage in dialogue with teaching staff.
We have also worked closely with the Revival Centre, a children's rehabilitation centre in Ukraine, which is 50 miles from the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Two thousand children a year are treated here, many born with disabilities arising from the radiation their parents acquired in 1986. Working with neurologists, we have developed a system for producing communication charts for the children which they can take home (few people can afford PCs or communication devices). The same team in Ukraine has now implemented this at the main geriatric hospital in Chernigiv, where adult stroke patients take home their own tailored communication book. The intention is to implement this across all relevant Ukrainian hospitals
Straight Street Ltd was formed to own the IPR and copyright of all the charity's computer products. While all our computer programs are free, we found we often had to buy a symbol set on behalf of each client. The lack of a free symbol set became an obstacle to sharing our products more widely as this is a huge expense for a small charity, limiting the numbers of people we could reach.
This, combined with the increasing bureaucracy required to run a UK Registered charity, the Trustees decided in 2007 that the wider work of the charity (which focussed on helping individuals locally) would be wound down. Instead, following a substantial grant, all our efforts would be concentrated on developing the symbol set, which we believe will have a much wider reach and a global impact. Our symbol set is now being translated into other languages.
To make our products free, we decided to set up Paxtoncrafts Charitable Trust and obtain grants to fund our work. The development of a symbol set is time-consuming and costly, but other providers of symbol sets use the traditional approach of setting up a business and selling the symbols to fund the development.
If you wish to make a contribution to our efforts, please contact us the Trustees at
Paxtoncrafts Charitable Trust
Pippins, The Orchard,