Regular readers will remember that we featured five-year-old James, who has vocal cord palsy, earlier this year. His condition means that he can only speak with a very quiet voice, due to a paralysed vocal cord. Unfortunately, when there is any background noise it is extremely difficult to hear him, particularly at school and when out and about in his wheelchair and the car. Obviously this is quite a big problem for one so young.

By David Martin

James’ mum got in touch with Remap to see if their clever engineers could come up with a solution and before long Niall McCarroll, a volunteer from Remap Berkshire had paid them a visit. Remap is a charity that helps disabled people of all ages to live more independent lives by designing and making customised equipment free of charge. 

Niall could immediately see that James needed some kind of amplifier for his voice and this was confirmed by Lizzie Nash, the speech therapist supporting him. She explained that adults with the condition could be supplied with a personal amplifier but that these were not available for small children. 


Niall went away to design and build a special microphone, pre-amplifier and speaker that James could wear on a belt. This new gadget was then tested and found to be a great success. James could now communicate without straining his weak vocal cords. A few months after receiving the gadget, his mum says: “We are still getting on really well with the voice amplifier. By far the biggest impact has been at school. He is talking with his peers now and is happy to speak up in class. He can be heard in the classroom and so can contribute independently to discussions and whole group work, rather than having to rely on the voice of his teaching assistant. It has also helped his confidence. He can be more independent as we now feel more confident that we will hear him if he needs help – rather than having to keep him in sight at all times.” 

She went on to say: “Amazingly the speech therapists have actually noticed an improvement in his voice quality since he’s been wearing it consistently! Probably because he’s no longer straining and trying to make himself heard. It’s beyond what we’d hoped for!” 

“He is talking with his peers now and is happy to speak up in class.”

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