Apps for Autism
Please take a few minutes to watch the segment that 60 Minutes aired this week on Apps for Autism. Here’s the best nugget you can walk away with: Just because someone can’t speak doesn’t mean they have nothing to say. There should be a collective duh on that one but is that how we act? Do we find ourselves using baby talk with people of all ages who are non-verbal? Do we assume they only understand so much, or do we commit the worst atrocity of all – do we completely ignore them?
This segment points out that because of improvements in assistive technology, parents have been shown to be right all along (another duh please) – our kids have something to say and they’ve been listening to and understanding us. I understand that it focused on people with Autism because that seems to be the diagnosis du jour. It stinks that those of us without a diagnosis have to ride the coattails of others or that all kids with Special Powers weren’t included. That being said, whatever it takes to spread the message, “Listen to my son,” I’ll take it. On the other hand, it sort of saddens me that it took a sexy device like the ipad to get the word out that non-verbal people have something to say. Shouldn’t we be more excited about the individuals and their voices than the machine?
Here’s another interesting point…hold tight Apple fans….there was life before the ipad. This segment obviously highlighted the ipad because of Steve Job’s death last week. However, assistive technology has been around since the beginning of time,sorta. Sometimes… Apple fans stay seated…sometimes other devices are more appropriate than the ipad. Every family needs to come to their own educated conclusion about what will work best for them. In this segment perhaps you saw the laminated paper that the young man Josh was using to communicate before the ipad. I can assure you (without actually having researched this) that he used something in the time between that paper and the ipad. There are other resources between those two steps and he had shown himself to have motor coordination and the cognitive ability to work something else.
Aside from the specific program differences between the ipad and Dynavox or Prentke Romich or whatever device, what is the biggest difference? All together now – MONEY!! This goes two ways. If you have to pay out of pocket, a $500 ipad is way more affordable than the other devices, which can cost upwards of $3000. If you have to depend on insurance, well, they won’t cover the ipad. Some families are not free to make this decision based on what is appropriate, but what is affordable. That just plain stinks.
Here’s another doozy. Each child needs to be properly assessed for a device, not just by a speech/language therapist, but by one who specializes in assistive technology. And, are you ready for this because it super stinks, you need to make sure they don’t also represent one specific company. It’s an obvious conflict of interest but one that goes readily overlooked in the field. Ask questions. Find out who is doing your child’s assessment. Request to see devices made by different companies. Keep them for at least a week and use them in a variety of settings.
So, if you don’t live in disability world and you got super excited by this segment on TV and want to run out and buy an ipad for that person who you think could really use it….don’t. Reach out to them. Share your enthusiasm, not for the ipad, but for what they have to say. Want to hear them. Then, ask how you can help. If they believe an ipad is their best choice, run to your nearest Apple store and buy one. If they believe another device is more appropriate but not covered by insurance, jump on the fundraising bandwagon.
Do it, because everyone deserves to be heard.