April 5, 2013 by Marj Hatzell
So. An iPad update. I know all ten of you have been waiting on the edge of your collective seats and stuff.
I may have mentioned a few times that Bugaboo has done well with the iPad. I credit it (and several apps) for making him interested in learning to read, learn his letters, sit still for more than thirty seconds and for being his one-stop shop for all things autism. It has his favorite music to calm and soothe him. It has games he loves to play (*cough* Fruit Ninja *cough*). It has his favorite videos (Hint: He’s the one, he’s the one, he’s the really useful engine that we adore…EVERYBODY SING!). He plays games with letters, plays autism-specific games, and uses it for social stories. Heck, he’ll interact with us. It’s been a win-win all the way.
Some folks might think of it as a ridiculously expensive toy. But honestly? I don’t think the Big Fruit company ever anticipated how much iPads could change the world for those with disabilities. IPads (and iPod touches, and minis, and iPhones) can be used for communication devices now. Never mind the educational aspect and the entertainment value. Can disabled people live without them? Absolutely. They’ve done it for years. But now that we’ve gotten a glimpse of what our child is capable with one, why would we ever want him to live without it? This is literally the first thing that has EVER put him on a level playing field with kids his own age. He looks like every other bored ten-year-old waiting for his order when we’re out to lunch. No giant, clunky communication device. He has access to an iTouch, too, so we often bring that with us on outings just to have one less thing to carry, since I can slip it into my purse.
Recently, though, things have changed drastically. He isn’t just a ten-year-old with a screen in front of his face (seriously, I never thought I’d be HAPPY my kid is staring at a screen like kids his age. There’s irony for you!). He’s using it to communicate. We purchase proloquo a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away) and we would bring it up here and there but he didn’t seem to have much interest. He was using minimal sign language and PECS to communicate. The problem was he tends to be a lazy signer and approximates or takes short cuts. Meaning, he uses the same sign for several thing and expects mommy to be his translator. And the PECS? While he’s made huge gains in communication and I don’t regret using them one iota, I get sick of losing his favorite icons (cheese curls, pizza, outside), sick of finding them in the sink or toilet, sick of the dog hair hair sticking to the velcro and sick of losing the *#&$% sentence strip.
At his IEP a few months back I mentioned we wanted to trial communication software. His new speech therapist was all about it. But there are waiting lists. Long waiting lists to get trial devices. We had previously done a trial with an ACC device. You know, adaptive communication something something? That. But Bugaboo didn’t really seem to know what to do with it or understand what it was for. He hated it. I was disappointed. I really wanted this to happen. But I’m a patient Mommy (LIES! ALL LIES!) and I want what is best for him and sometimes I don’t always know what that is. But he seems to know what he can do and what he wants so it’s up to me to follow his lead.
That’s when I thought about the iPad. I’ve seen what other autistics have done with speech apps. Why not try it? We’ve at least been able to get him to pick from a list of food items while on outings. It was worth a shot.
Fast forward to last month. I asked about the trial. STILL ON A WAITING LIST. That’s when Momma Bear got impatient and asked the School District very nicely to make sure the Bugaboo got a device since, you know, HE HAS NO EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION. A few area places with loaner devices were contacted. Needless to say we had a device to trial the next day.
The first day I received a note in his communication log (daily communication between home and school, we keep track of his behavior, outings, meals, etc). He used it and did well picking snacks. More of the same over the next few school days. A few days later it was the weekend. He handed me, “Hotdog. Outside.” On his PECS sentence strip. I told him to wait for Daddy to get back from the Big Home Improvement store. The next thing I knew, Bugaboo fired up the speech app and input, “When are we eating? Raisins, cashews, cornchips, hotdog.”
Then there was, “I need help. Outside. Dogs.” Because Daisy was barking.
“I feel, tired, angry. When are we leaving? I want to go, Someplace different” When we were at the doctor.
“I feel, happy, shower.” When he wanted a shower.
“I’m hungry, I want, pizza, pizza, pizza, pizza, pizza…”
You get the picture, right? (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?)
Seriously. And this is just THE TRIAL. When we’re doing this full time? With more training? CAN YOU IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES? Because I can. We’re doing it, y’all. My boy is communicating. And while we have a looooong way to go before it’s effective and consistent, I already see a change in him for the better.
But be careful what you wish for, yo. Because you might just hear, “I want, nachos, nachos, nachos, nachos, nachos, when are we eating? I want, nachos, nachos, nachos, I feel, happy” for hours on end.
Beautiful to my ears.