Mia Polachek, family

PALATINE, Ill. — A 4-year-old who is battling an incurable disease joined other students to be honored Thursday night for her determination to use technology to expand communication.

Mia Polachek of Round Lake was born with Edwards syndrome, also known as trisomy 18. Affected individuals are born with an extra copy of chromosome 18.

Genetic conditions can affect many things, including physical development and language, but are extremely rare.

Mia Polachek, family

Her parents told WGN News that Mia is sassy and full of life. Today, many technologies exist to help people with special needs communicate and do many other things.

Mia has been at the forefront of this at the young age of four. She has been working with her innovative eye-gaze technology software to help people express themselves. The results surprised her parents.

“It meant the world to me,” said his mother, Gina Polachek. She says, “Getting her girlfriend to say her 'I love you' and allowing her to express herself is what motivates others to try to be creative.”

Mia using technology

That's what makes her parents smile the most. Other students at her school, Learmont, are also starting to use the device.

“She shocked the school by having the ability to use it at such a young age,” Polachek said. “They brought this up more to give other kids a chance. Mia proved that you don't know until you give them a chance.”

It works by tracking a person's eye movements while looking at a tablet. It's slow at first, but eventually the person using it will be able to communicate in complete sentences and do a variety of other things.

To honor her courage in leveraging technology, Tinley Park-based company Infintech announced Thursday night, “Mastering Assistive Technology Devices to Realize Endless Possibilities and Create a Life Without Limitations.” Mia and 10 other students were recognized for their outstanding achievements.

They showed the next video and Mia was able to give a speech.

“I think Mia really showed us that just like with the average person, communication starts early and it's really important. It's the same for people with special needs.” said Polachek. “Some people might get lost in that and say it starts at 6, 7, 8 years old, but Mia showed that it can be done at a much younger age. She really opened people's eyes. I did.”

Her parents also took action to defend her. A little more than a year ago, they helped found the Edwards Syndrome Association. Its mission is to reach out to other affected parents and children by sending gift packages and “cards of hope.”

Learn more about the association's programs here.

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