Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Eric's iPad: The Real Power of These Devices Is That They Bring a New Dimension for Those with Disabilities to Incorporate Their Usage into Many Aspects of Their Life. Now, Parents Can Enjoy Another Fabulous Way to Be Exceptional Parents

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Eric's iPad: The Real Power of These Devices Is That They Bring a New Dimension for Those with Disabilities to Incorporate Their Usage into Many Aspects of Their Life. Now, Parents Can Enjoy Another Fabulous Way to Be Exceptional Parents

Article excerpt

We are in a fantastic time for technology advances for those with special needs. With so many options on the market these days, parents and professionals wonder which device will unlock the key to a child's future. Can one piece of technology meet all of their needs? The use of technology to assist the needs of the disabled is not new. For many years, individuals have been using devices to assist them in communication, therapy and education. They were neither as portable nor as affordable. With frustration and first-hand knowledge of watching my son's inability to communicate effectively, I wanted desperately to give Eric a device that could help him.

MUTUAL LOVE FOR TECHNOLOGY

Eric's love for his favorite cartoon created in me a talent I had no idea I possessed. One, that I could splice out coming attractions, commercials and ending credits as if I was employed at a television network. I created slide presentations that could be activated with a gentle push of a button. I found dual mouse switches that I could work simultaneously while Eric used his special mouse on his computer. His television, connected to his iPod with a series of wires that looked like we were attempting to contact beings from another planet, could play all his videos, just by turning it on. To see Eric enjoy the thrill of accomplishment was priceless. We became huge fans of Apple products, happily embarking on the excursion from iPods, to iPhones. When the iPad2 was introduced, we could not wait any longer. We knew it was a truly amazing product for games, video and educational activities, but now it had one more fantastic feature: Facetime.

IPADS, TIGERS AND BEARS ... OH MY!

Consultations with numerous specialists recommended various units over the years. I remember endless discussions with Eric's therapists, where devices would be identified for Eric with a caveat, that the unit could be used only during therapy sessions. I wondered how a child could learn to love any device with such limited access. Over the years, we had the opportunity to try out a few products, most with lukewarm interest on Eric's part. Each had valid reasons to be considered, but they were either too complicated, nor did they capture Eric's interest.

We were very fortunate to be at the right place, at the right time, to access an extensive assistive technology evaluation during our time in Virginia. The information provided was not only valuable in making a decision about what device would suit Eric's needs, but we learned a few things about Eric, from the keen observations of these talented folks. I would highly recommend if you have access to getting such an evaluation, to do so. It delivers a great starting point in determining the direction to take in identifying assistive technology for your child.

A full day working with these experts gave us lots of information. In typical Eric's mom style, I had a mental check list of the iPad's abilities and hoped to get validation that an iPad should be our device of choice. They confirmed that Eric relied exclusively on behavior to express pleasure and discontentment and that he was acutely aware of his environment. That his auditory attention was a strong point for him and that he was, without a doubt, right-handed. Eric could easily track movement on a device's screen vertically, horizontally, and diagonally and preferred high contrast visual tracking games and that his favorite color was blue. Further suggestions included that Eric would greatly benefit from a device that could present images on either a white or black background. When Eric was presented with a touch screen device, without any prompting, he timidly reached out and touched the screen and made a choice between two images. Once he made his choice, a few seconds of video played and when it finished the device returned back new images. Eric made choices 13 out of 20 times! In reflecting over the times he did not make choices, Eric had very clearly made a choice. …

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