Photo Credit: FRED ZWICKY/JOURNAL STAR
I’ve seen a number of stories over the last year about iPads being used to help children with autism. One I spotted today at TimesReporter.com – thanks to a tweet by Tracey Weil of Tales2Go – is maybe the most compelling one yet.
The first part of the story is about Grady Oathout, a three year old who has autism, his mom Tara’s efforts to acquire an iPad for him, the impact it has had on their lives, and how the iPad has helped him to communicate with his parents. Here are a few excerpts from the TimesReporter article:
Tara says her son, who has autism, was trapped in a world to himself, unable to communicate his desires and remote from his parents. "With the iPad, we’ve learned just how amazing he truly is. He reaches out to us and now he can tell us what he wants and how it feels." …
From the moment you know you’re pregnant, you have a dream for your children –– what they will experience, what they will accomplish. Autism takes a huge chunk out of that dream," Tara Oathout said. "For us, the iPad brings some of that dream back. It’s as much for me as it is for him."
With the iPad in hand, Grady’s vocabulary moved almost immediately from zero words to 10 with the use of software called iCommunicate. The program is an electronic version of a therapy regimen called Picture Exchange Communication System. It’s a series of simple drawings; iCommunicate offers more than 10,000 different images that can help people who have trouble communicating locate and point to an image on the touch screen. The pictures illustrate a feeling, a need or any of a wide range of other expressions.
"Before the iPad, he was nonverbal and showed little emotion," Tara Oathout said. "Now I get hugs and kisses."
The next part of the story is about how Tara has now made it her mission to help get iPads to other parents of non-verbal children; and has been championing this cause despite battling with some major health issues of her own. She has founded a group called Loud Mommy Ministries, that raises funds for this cause, and a website called LoudMommy.com – which is described as ‘A loud voice for a silent world’.
The post at the top of the LoudMommy site today is titled ‘ What I Can Tell You’. It addresses the fact that there are not studies or research yet that advocate the use of the iPad as a communications tool for children with autism, and there are those who point out that they are not a miracle cure for children with autism.
Tara doesn’t argue with any of that, as her post title implies, she just shares what she can tell us, from her own first-hand experience. It’s a powerful post – and I don’t want to try to paraphrase any of it. So here’s a long excerpt from it:
And by George…when an opportunity like the iPad comes along, my questions is: What are you waiting for? Its within your grasp. Its something that makes sense. A piece of that autism puzzle clicks into place. Grady went from 0 words to 15 in less then a month simply from loving to hear the PECS on his iPad. His comprehension of food and toys and the association to a word went way up. We were playing. WE were having fun TOGETHER. I saw a glimmer of hope! I saw where the future could take us. Is my son suddenly 100% verbal? No. Is he comprehending everything? No. Do I let him take the iPad for hours upon hours and play absorbed in his own world? No. Its a tool. It needs to be used like one, just like therapies. Hours at a time and with supervision. But this comes with the territory of being a LoudMommy.
So no. No one claimed the iPad was a miracle or a cure for autism. Every autistic child is different, every situation isn’t the same. However, its an amazing tool and has made an amazing difference in my life. In no way would I ever trade it or this experience for anything. Watching my son spell, discover his love for the trumpet, match, sort, do puzzle, colors, shapes, dance and laugh along with having the opportunity to communicate? Priceless. I feel that as a LoudMommy all we want is to create moments where we helped and benefited our child. The iPad gives us hope. Its another option. Its a chance. This is something we can do. If not by yourself: Together.
When I look at my son, I know that I am blessed beyond all measure. Life is too short to sit and say “The iPad isn’t a miracle for Autism.” For $800? I sure think its worth a try. And sure, maybe its not a “miracle” for autism. But it is for me. It is for this LoudMommy.
The whole post is well worth a read:
You can also get more information on LoudMommy there, and make a donation via Paypal. Here’s hoping Tara raises lots of money for her cause.