At Rick’s birth in 1962 the umbilical cord coiled around his neck and cut off oxygen to his brain. D i c k and his wife, Judy, were told that there would be no hope for their child’s development.
"It’s been a story of exclusion ever since he was born," D i c k told me. "When he was eight months old the doctors told us we should just put him away — he’d be a vegetable all his life, that sort of thing.
The couple brought their son home determined to raise him as "normally" as possible.
A group of Tufts University engineers came to the rescue, once they had seen some clear, empirical evidence of Rick’s comprehension skills. "They told him a joke," said D i c k. "Rick just cracked up. They knew then that he could communicate!" The engineers went on to build — using $5,000 the family managed to raise in 1972 - an interactive computer that would allow Rick to write out his thoughts using the slight head-movements that he could manage. Rick came to call it "my communicator." A cursor would move across a screen filled with rows of letters, and when the cursor highlighted a letter that Rick wanted, he would click a switch with the side of his head.
When the computer was originally brought home, Rick surprised his family with his first "spoken" words. They had expected perhaps "Hi, Mom" or "Hi, Dad." But on the screen Rick wrote "Go Bruins." The Boston Bruins were in the Stanley Cup finals that season, and his family realized he had been following the hockey games along with everyone else. "So we learned then that Rick loved sports," said D i c k.