STATE-OF-THE-ART technology has allowed a Kidderminster woman with a rare genetic disorder to communicate with her family and doctors for the first time in 32 years.

Polly Worrall, aged 36, lost the ability to speak completely from the age of two, after being diagnosed with Retts Syndrome, which affects brain development, resulting in severe mental and physical disability.

Mum Judith told The Shuttle: "Just before Polly turned two, she started losing skills and losing the ability to speak. She also lost the use of her hands.

"She was diagnosed with Retts Syndrome, which was very traumatic for her and for us, because her body stopped doing what it was meant to do."

Kidderminster Shuttle:

As Polly grew older and the disorder progressed, her family remained convinced that she could still understand what was going on around her.

Judith said: "We knew she could still understand things. She would laugh in the right places and you could tell she had a feisty personality - she just couldn't make her body work.

"What was frustrating was that people didn’t seem to respect the fact she could communicate.

"Because she couldn't respond, people would assume she couldn't understand. People would speak to me instead of speaking to her."

Then, four years ago, Judith found out about the I-series technology from Tobii Dynavox - a speech-generating tablet that helps people with physical disabilities to communicate and control their home environments with just the use of their eyes.

Kidderminster Shuttle:

"I thought the equipment was amazing," said Judith. "But Polly was 32 at the time and I thought it was probably too late for her.

"I went to a couple of meetings and very quickly realised it's never too late. I borrowed a device from Rett UK and, within a few weeks, Polly was using it really purposefully.

"By December, she had her own all-singing all-dancing machine that can be mounted onto her wheelchair so she can talk to people when she's out and about too."

The equipment allowed Polly to say "I love you" to her mum for the first time in 32 years - but some of what she had to say was difficult for her family to hear.

Judith said: "One of the very first things Polly said was to her carer when I walked out of the room. She said 'I'm so frustrated. No one knows how I feel.' It absolutely gutted me.

Kidderminster Shuttle:

"But I spoke to her about it and said, yes, Retts Syndrome is rubbish, and yes, it's really sad that you've got it, but we're doing our best to make things right."

Judith added: "Polly has said some upsetting things, some moving and some funny things. She jokes and calls me a plonker and calls our other daughter The Child, even though she's 22. It's allowed her to show off her personality.

"She can also tell us when she's uncomfortable but it has also improved other people's perception of her.

"Having the computer in front of her tells the whole world I can talk to you and I do have an opinion.

"To give someone a voice that hasn't had one for such a long time is priceless."