Codi’s Life: From CIDE to Coding and Communication Technology
By Jennifer MendenhallOct 25, 2021
I’m a 53-year-old mom of a very determined and sassy fifteen-year-old girl. I grew up in a small Colorado town, lived in Alaska for seven years, which is where I met my husband, and our daughter, Codi, was born in Palmer, AK. Codi was a full-term baby who experienced a lack of oxygen at birth, later resulting in a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy.
Today, Codi is considered non-verbal, uses a wheelchair for mobility and a gastrostomy tube for nutrition. She began 9th grade in Fall 2021. We are not only beginning the transition to high school, but also to her post-secondary life.
Codi uses many forms of technology and supports to increase her self-sufficiency, move about independently and share her thoughts. The Google mini in our home recognizes her voice from her communication app and plays her favorite songs and games. She uses her iPad to turn on the lights and TV in the house. She uses her “talker” to ask Google to call Domino’s to order a pizza, and she can even order and pay for her own food at Taco Bell!
She started her assistive technology journey using low tech communication devices at one year old, with a speech-language pathologist at the Center for Inclusive Design and Engineering. She worked with her clinicians as she transitioned through increased levels of communication. Her most recent “talker” gave her access to apps for communication, learning, and school. Her iPad and her power wheelchair became extensions of herself.
If you were to meet her, you’d realize she is way more than a rather bleak description on paper. She is an adventurer. She is confident. She is self-determined. She is a social butterfly and loves a good joke. She is compassionate toward her peers and others. My dream has always been for Codi to enjoy every aspect of life despite her disability. She swims, bikes (trikes) independently, and she participates in adaptive rock climbing and soccer. Codi is also a passionate coder and tech wiz! She received the Student of the Month award for computers in September 2019, for producing twice as many lines of code as her peers! She began a YouTube channel called Codi’s Life in 2018, where she creates, edits and uploads her own videos. At the beginning of this school year, Codi used her iPad and Proloquo2go in an interview with Colorado Public Radio for a story about students coming back to school after the COVID-19 shutdown. She uses Marco Polo to chat with her friends, and Facebook Messenger and texting have increased her spelling and reading abilities. She uses Instagram to video chat with her grandparents. Codi is a typical, not so typical teenager. Oh, and yes, she loves to go shopping!
Since having a child with special needs, I’ve wanted to share our story to help others navigate the very involved and tricky world of disability. Codi and I traveled to many states to advocate for children with special needs, educate future and current providers, and share our knowledge. In March 2019, we were accepted as TEDx Grand Junction presenters, and were so honored to have our Talk selected to be on TED.com. During our presentation, we spoke about the various forms of technology and the support team (therapists, teachers, para’s, doctors, etc.) that give Codi the tools she needs to be independent and successful.
What I want people to know about myself and Codi is that disability isn’t a tragedy. Through the use of technology, an adventurous spirit and a sense of humor, life with a disability can be whatever you want it to be!