CSD 823X S10
Reactions to "Eugene"

Nicholas Hugh Craft During the film, it was easy to forget about why a film was being made in the first place; was this a film about AAC, about Russian culture, or Jewish culture-it all seemed to overlapp so nicely you can see Eugene as person.  It also seems that nothing seems impossible with AAC and talking computers.  However, you realize that talking computers cannot replace the emotional toll on Eugene and his family.  I  liked that he really took an active roll and wanted to participate in his culture.  At times it seems or it is perceived that people who use AAC aren’t interested in talking and are just trying to get by; they know they have a communication disability and helplessness sets in.  Like this film and the last one, this is obviously not the case.  Anyway to communicate, whether by toe or mouth, he really wanted to convey his thoughts.  This film and the last made me think of the movie “My Left Foot” in which an individual with ALS or cerebral palsy, I’m not really sure, paints using his left foot and lives a decent life.  
Allison Ann Dery
I've always enjoyed learning about new cultures and working with individuals who have differing beliefs. I worked in Mexico at Angel Notion and provided speech and language services for children who spoke Spanish. Watching Eugene reminded me of the time I spent in Playa del Carmen and the encouragement I provided to families and children regarding communication. In particular, I worked with a child with Autism in Mexico who we were beginning to teach gestural communication. The strategies we provided to his mother regarding communication brightened her day. Eugene's experience represents the same transition from having difficulties communicating to effectively speaking with an alternative communication device. The reason many speech therapists get into this field is that triumphant day when finally the child can speak efficiently.
My favorite part in this movie was the amount of creatively his speech and language pathologists had. Each one communicated differently with Eugene and created means for him to communicate his wants and needs without a computer. One aspect that speech and language pathologists have to keep in mind is that although an electronic device is great for asking, requesting, and stating, a basic form of a communication board should also be implemented to ensure that in situations when it isn't possible to use the electronic device, the child can still communicate. Speech and language pathologists also have to keep in mind that a child may want to speak in a language other than English. We as SLPs must be sensitive to their independent decisions and take charge to promote language learning and usage. Overall, Eugene's story teaches us that without language, children and adults feel isolated and not in control of their environment. SLPs should monitor the feelings and emotions of their clients to make sure that isolation is prevented and communication is encouraged.
Allison Dery
Mary Margaret Gebbia-Portice
Eugene is one of my favorite movies. The most amazing part of the movie is how all it takes is one person to care and a life can be completely changed forever. I think there are too many times when we don't realize what kind of an impact we can have on someone else's life. When we are able to keep in mind that we do impact others' lives, then we can guide our actions accordingly and really make a difference in this world. When we don't remember that we are impacting others' lives, then we miss incredible opportunities to change peoples' worlds.
The other thing that amazed me was Eugene's determination and insistence on becoming a Bar Mitzvah. The idea seemed impossible and unreachable, but Eugene did not see the barriers that others might have seen. And Eugene's mother had faith enough in him to move forward and help Eugene pursue his dream. It's incredibly important that we do not limit individuals by our own preconceived notions or fears. Eugene's mother could have let her fear stop her from helping her son or allowing him to become Bar Mitzvah, but she didn't. With the support of professionals who also believed in the seemingly impossible, Eugene and his mother were able to move forward. This is the kind of attitude and daily choice-making that need to be part of our lives as professionals. I hope that all of us can be as supportive and hopeful as everyone in the movie was.
There was one more thing that really impressed me about the movie. The honesty of Eugene's parents about their challenges and struggles really gave some insight into the effects of a severe disability on the entire family. To see how Eugene's mother struggled was really important and I'm glad that the situation was not sugar-coated and not dramatized. It amazed me that she even struggled through helping Eugene and his brother as a single mother for a time. I know the challenges of single-parenthood and cannot imagine what it would be like to be the single parent of a severely disabled child. It was important to see the reality of disability and I'm glad the movie showed multiple sides of the challenge.
Pamela Marie Hamp

Thank you for sharing the movie about Eugene with us. What an amazing child – and family. I was especially touched by the mother and her relationship with her son. Considering her difficulty with childbirth - and the obvious lack of care, it is amazing she and her son are both alive. I cannot imagine being her position and having a child who was completely healthy right up until the act of giving birth. It would be extremely frustrating and hard to forgive the people at the hospital who did not help her. Fortunately it appears she has moved on and made a life for herself and her family. I also appreciated seeing how the second son (Mitchell) and her husband interacted with Eugene. They all seem to love and support each other. I would think a sibling of a ‘special needs’ child might feel resentful at times of the attention and care their brother or sister demands. I know we only saw a glimpse of their lives but it appears Mitchell is a pretty well rounded and thoughtful brother.


I liked how Eugene’s teachers were honest about how most people would not have the patience to wait for Eugene to ‘say something’ with his communication board. Many people would just move on and/or assume or guess what he was trying to say.  We are not a patient people. I really don’t know if I could wait 30 minutes or so for him to spell out and ‘say’ a few words. It was so cool that Eugene was able to use AAC devices to ‘speak for himself’ – but even that was laborious. Truly amazing he had the desire and endurance to learn English, Hebrew and Russian.


Finally, I enjoyed seeing how the local Jewish community embraced this family. It appears Eugene’s family did not really practice their religion until becoming involved in their local synagogue. It was wonderful to see everyone get involved in Eugene’s life and it was great at the end of the movie (in the credits) how Eugene thanked everyone who had helped with the bar mitzvah.

Leathia Hodge
What a wonderful story about our desire to be heard!  Eugene’s journey was one of hard work and dedication, not only on his part, but also for the team of professionals and support staff used to make it happen.  The story was multi-layered.  For our class it was about the use of AAC, but it was a beautiful testimony to the desire of disabled persons to be heard.  For a non-disabled teen to prepare for such an event is difficult, but to couple it with a disability such as Eugene’s, and still not just complete the task, but do it beautifully was so heartwarming.
Jessica Marie Kaman This is the second time I have seen the movie 'Eugene.' I also watched it in Dr. Eulenberg's Descriptive Phonetics class. It affected me just as much watching it the second time as the first time.  I think it even had a greater effect watching it last Wednesday because I have learned so much about the field of Speech Langauge Pathology since I took Phonetics. That was my first semester taking Communicative Sciences and Disorders classes, so everything makes much more sense to me now. Instead of just remembering the storyline, this time I was able to remember certain points about augmentative communication. For example, one goal at the beginning of therapy is to find an access point on the body in which a person can signal 'yes' or 'no.' It amazes me that some people don't have enough control over their eyes to use them as a signal. I also learned that Eugene considered his eyes and language board as his backup communication devices. His main communication device is when he uses his foot to select characters. Watching it the second time, it really made me realize how important this main communication device was for him. When it broke down, he was not able to be as independent, got frustrated, and really felt like a part of his life was missing.

            I think 'Eugene' is a phenomenal story about overcoming obstacles and using augmentative communication to enhance a person's life. I loved the part when Dr. Eulenberg described the story of Eugene's birth. He said that when Eugene was born, he died for seven seconds and went to heaven. Once he got there, he told God he wasn't ready to be there. God told him that he wouldn't be able to have speech, walk, or move his arms a lot. Someone would have to help dress him and take him to the bathroom. Eugene told God, that was okay because he still had work to do and a message to show the world. That description shows me how much confidence Dr. Eulenberg has in his client's abilities and it reinforces that everything happens for a reason. It also shows how motivated Eugene was to make a difference and persevere. It took a lot of effort and patience for him to type his entire speech and the songs with only his foot. In addition, he had to learn Hebrew and program it into his computer. It took a lot of courage for him to go before everyone on his Barmitzvah and give this inspiring speech. This event in his life made such a difference and makes me realize how important it is for a Speech Pathologist or anyone working with people to really get to know each client and find out what his/her hopes, dreams, and goals are.

Jessica Kaman

Andrea Marie Kujawa FILM REACTION
This film was another great example of how augmentative communication can change someone's life.  Most importantly, this film demonstrated how important it is to take into account the client's interests and passions in order to implement the most life-changing therapy techniques.  I think that in this particular situation, the Bar Mitzvah Ceremony created an end goal to work towards, while working with this new augmentative advice.  It created a greater amount of determination.  In addition, it allowed a message to be transferred that may not otherwise have had the chance to be conveyed. What a valuable experience that will always be remembered.
Chelsea Rebecca Adler Marks I was very delighted that I was able to see Eugene for a second time. I remember the first time I saw the movie I almost cried because I found it enlightening that Eugene, a boy who had few means of communication, could now communicate in ways never imaginable. It had seemed that everyone had been astonished at all Eugene was able to accomplish. I enjoyed observing Eugene being a Bar Mitzvah and found it impressive that he was also able to have the option to speak his native language, Russian, as well as the ability to use English. It was interesting to see the technology available for Eugene. Yet, it would be nice to see more individuals have the freedom to communicate in language they choose, including multiple languages, such as Eugene’s device. I think this movie also helped to represent some of the factors the families have to go through and how working together can benefit everyone. Through taking this course on AAC I hope to learn how to help individuals like Eugene accomplish goals never before expected. 
Amanda Marie Vanhuysse