Technology helps overcome obstacles at Spelling Bee

By Brittany Pieper – email

Shreveport, LA(KSLA)- One by one, students walked up to the mic to spell their word out loud at the Youree Drive Middle School Spelling Bee.  However, Ashleigh Strange competed in a different way.

"This helps a lot better," she said softly talking about her computer.

Since birth, Ashleigh has faced several challenges. She's a quadriplegic, and has difficulty speaking among other things. Ashleigh says she never thought she would complete in a spelling bee, but with the help of technology, she sat on the stage along with her other classmates.

"I think it would be fun to do it," she said of her decision to compete.

14-year-old Ashleigh uses a head band to control her computer mouse. Once she gets it where she wants it, she can use her right arm to click on the letter. When she's done spelling the word, the answer will show up on this screen for the judges to read.

"She wants to be involved. She wants to be a part of everything," said Ashleigh's father, Doug Strange.

Strange says there are challenges. The family's day starts at 5-30 a.m. to get Ashleigh ready for school. An aid must stay with her to act as her hands and voice in the classroom, but she has never given up on something she wants to do.

"We all have deficiencies in one form or another. We choose to let it hinder us or we choose to work with it and go beyond and get to where we can be," said Strange.

Ashleigh didn't make it past the first round. She misspelled "destination", but she plans to compete again next year.

"I want to win," she said with a smile.

Ashleigh's family hopes her story will help others to realize the potential of special needs students.

At the end of the competition, Ashleigh used her computer to spell out one last message to her fellow competitors.  G-o-o-d j-o-b.

Caddo Parish Schools' special education program provided Ashleigh with the computer and technology that she used today. She also uses it in the classroom on a daily basis.

Alonzo Bates won the spelling bee. The winning word was "woebegone."