Tango! Communications gives teen a voice

By Bobby Shuttleworth - bio | email

TANNER, AL (WAFF) - Imagine being locked inside a body with needs and wants, but not being able to express them. That's what 17-year-old Jared Merill of Tanner has experienced all his life.

He has cerebral palsy and other health challenges, but his life has changed thanks to a communication device called Tango!.

"Before he had no communication. If you wanted to know what's wrong with him, you had to kind of guess," said Jackie Kimbro, a speech pathologist.

Thanks to Tango!, he can actually let you know what's wrong, and even express his mood.

"He's never been able to whine before, so now there's an input where he can whine," said Kimbro. "he can be just like every other teenager."

"Since he's been able to have the Tango!, he has the ability to tell us what he wants at home, like when we're selecting a movie. He can have input on that," said Jared's mother, Shelley Merill.

Like any teen, those "inputs" can be moody.

"When we got it at church one Sunday he got a little bored with whoever was speaking and decided he wanted to listen to music, and that's the button he kept pushing music, music, music," said Shelley.

He also was pushing a button directed toward his older brother who had returned home from 2 years in Germany. He never heard his young sibling talk, but Jared worked hard to program a verbal welcome home.

"He was able to present that greeting when his brother came home and I don't think anybody was left without a tear in their eye," said Shelley.

She says none of this would be possible without the children's rehabilitation services in Huntsville. They worked tirelessly to test and find the device.

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