Man with cerebral palsy believes anything's possible

(Editor's Note: The following is the second in a two-part series about Lawrence Smart, a 63-year-old man formerly of Plattsburgh who has no use of his voice due to having cerebral palsy. However, Smart has found his voice through the use of an electronic device known as a Liberator.)

PLATTSBURGH - Lawrence Smart has never let his cerebral palsy stop him from enjoying life, even when his Liberator, the device he uses to communicate, recently quit working.

The device, which had served Smart well for many years, was out of date and needed to be replaced. Pam McDonald, Smart's speech therapist, introduced him to a more advanced Liberator, which is based on the same coding system as his older one. The "Liberator ECO 2" has granted Smart even more independence, giving him more functions at his disposal and the opportunity to make life-changing decisions for himself. He can now talk on his cell phone, go online, and keep a photo album with his new device.

Dawn Pray, a support staff member at Sunmount in Keeseville, where Smart resides, said it is more convenient for him, but has taken some getting used to.

"He gets frustrated, because the timing is different," she said, adding that Smart will sometimes ask fellow staff members questions about the device.

The best part is the machine has granted him the chance to take control of his life, she said.

"He's so excited. It makes him feel really good to tell people his story," Pray said.

Most recently, McDonald has been encouraged him to study along with literacy volunteers at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh to learn how to read while using his Liberator.

"He's expressed to me that it has been a lifelong goal for him," McDonald said. "He's been doing really well."

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