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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Autism and Ipads, Assistive Technology, Augmentative Communication, and all that jazz

Just recently I wrote a post about the silliest impulse purchase in recent history. You'd think I'd learned my lesson - but no.  A scant two months later I was once again filled with excitement over the next major breakthrough that would surely turn Dovi's life around.

Shortly after the late Steve Jobs passed away, I was flooded with emails and PMs telling me that I just had to watch this clip. I watched... and bawled. I cried til my head hurt. For I saw Dovi in every one of those 7 and 10 year olds. The tantrums, the inability to express themselves, the frustration... My heart broke. Even my husband, who is not touched by these things, was clearing his throat as he watched behind me. To this day I can't watch this clip without crying intensely. It's 13 minutes long. I'll be surprised if you won't find yourself crying at some point.


 I was so blown away that I immediately knew that this would be my next major project. I threw myself into it with total enthusiasm. First I shared the clip with the ever-devoted Ellen, who was blown away as well. Then I tried to get funding through Marilyn and the Clinic - and that's where I hit my first snag. The OPWDD did not pay for Ipads; according to them it was a 'toy' (but they give toy money, so why wouldn't they pay for this?) - but ironically, had no problem funding the Dynavox, which costs thousands of dollars! Since I would have to pay for the Ipad myself, I started looking into various programs where you could 'win an ipad' - but it didnt seem like I would win anywhere.

I brought up the idea with Sarah, the educational director at TABAC, and she liked the idea - but pooh-poohed it at the same time. Dovi wasn't really ready for assisted communication; he was not yet recognizing pictures and he didn't have the attention span for a machine. But she gave me some good ideas: She liked the Android platform just as much as the Ipad, and even more so, since there were many apps that was supported by Android as opposed to just a few for the Ipad. An Android device was way more affordable than an Ipad. For another child at the center she used Tap To Talk, which is a lot cheaper than ProLoQuo2Go. She urged me to cool my heels and wait a little; the center was aiming at becoming digitized, and the Board of Ed could possibly pay for the Ipad, so I shouldn't jump the gun yet.

But I had become extremely excited at the myriad possibilities of a tablet computer. I hoped it would help me figure out a way to keep Dovi occupied; maybe there were educational games we could play together? I spent hours trawling the web for information on Ipads, autism, Assisted Augmented Communication, and Apps for Autism.

So I researched and researched and finally settled on the Toshiba Thrive. With a 10" screen, Android Market, built in microphone and plenty of memory, it was everything I wanted. I waited for the Black Friday sales and bought it for under $300 at

I loved my new toy. I was able to drag it along with me whereever I went; and it would prove to be extremely handy and portable when Chaim was hospitalized a few months later for a short time. (Oh boy will that be a post to write....) But the problem was that Dovi was completely uninterested in it. It became my toy to take to bed and watch my sitcoms on, and for Chaim to become completely addicted to Where's My Water and Supermarket Mania. Dovi watched his favorite Youtube clips on it. But Tap To Talk did not interest him. I tried to program it; the trouble was - and still is - that Dovi has no need to communicate. He has very few needs and interests and doesn't need to express himself. When he needs food or drink, he leads you to the fridge. When he needs a toy, he leads you to the toy closet. Deeper expressions such as "I'm hurt", "I'm thirsty", "I'm scared" etc. are beyond his scope of understanding at this point - so there is no real need for assistive technology right now. He doesn't need Tap to Talk, and he doesn't need an Ipad.

Chalk this up to the second unnecessary impulse purchase in recent history.

It wasn't a dust collector like the trampoline, however. My laptop had been in its death throes for a long time, and I was delighted to have a really low-cost alternative to the clunker. Sadly, it didn't last very long; after being dropped twice and having huge cracks in the screen, Dovi spilled - of all things - olive juice on the screen in April, killing the entire machine. I asked around but there was no way to repair it; as a matter of fact, repair centers for tablet computers are few and far in between and the cost of repair exceed the cost of a new machine. Within days I purchased a Netbook instead, and our days of touch screen tablet are over for now.

Dovi's new school - the one he will hopefully attend next year if I'll be able to afford it - relies heavily on Dynavoxes and Ipads, and I look forward to Dovi learning to use it properly. Ipads can be wonderful for the right candidates. But I will forever be moved by the 60 minutes clip - which didn't quite change my life, but warmed my heart.

You can make it happen!!! Help Dovi get to that amazing school -his only obstacle right now it lack of $$$$. Even five dollars will make a difference!!

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to introduce you to an online friend of mine, Dannilion. She is autistic, and also has a chronic illness that keeps her almost entirely bed bound, incontinent, and on a feeding tube. She cannot speak - and she's happily married. Her husband has severe Aspergers, and is her primary carer. Her blog is amazing!


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