It is lunchtime in the cafeteria of the Henry Viscardi School in Nassau County, and two eighth graders are doing what boys their age do best: batting insults back and forth.
“Get off my case,” Jalen says.
“If you had a case, I’d get off it,” a classmate replies.
“You’re weird,” Jalen retorts. “No, you’re weird.”
It is a scene that could unfold on any given taco Tuesday in any school cafeteria, save for one crucial difference: Jalen has cerebral palsy and is unable to speak; his testy remarks come not from his mouth but from a machine called a DynaVox, mounted on his joystick-controlled wheelchair.