How an iPad can give a voice to special needs children

Jo Ashline is a columnist for the Orange County Register who regularly writes about parenting special needs children. We were particularly interested in her recent piece discussing the therapeutic use of iPads with non-verbal children and wanted to share it with the Health 2.0 community. While many of these children still face an uphill battle when it comes to communicating and learning, tablet apps are making a world of difference for families trying to connect. We highly encourage our developer community to look into analogous projects because, as Jo puts it, “[n]ot being able to speak is not the same as not having anything to say.” And it turns out that these children have plenty to say.     —Deb Linton
 

He was 12 months old when we first heard the timid consonants emanating from his tiny mouth; I swooned with joy at my firstborn’s babbling, but his vocal experiments soon graduated to an incessant cacophony that filled our home with sounds only a parent could love.

I harnessed his newfound passion for language and soon had him impressing the grandparents with his solid (albeit not unique) ability to articulate farm animal sounds:

“Andrew, what does a cow say?”

“Mooooooooooooooooooo.”

It was so normal.

So normal in fact, that I completely took it for granted.

Oh, but hindsight is 20/20, and had I known then that my little boy’s babbles would soon turn into a silence so deafening you could hear my heart breaking, I would have clung to each and every overzealous and ear-splitting syllable.

In a matter of weeks our son’s voice was taken hostage by what we would later learn to be a severe form of autism. Gone were the constant audible reminders that we had a developmentally healthy child on our hands, and in their place was a deep and profound void; an empty sense of loss that was punctuated by Andrew’s increasing whines and cries, the primitive grunts and groans quickly becoming the only way our frustrated son was able to express himself. I watched in horror as my once social son began to retreat into a world where I was clearly not invited.

I tried desperately to reclaim my little boy.

“Andrew baby, tell mommy, what does a cow say? Come on sweetheart, you know this one. What does a cow say? Please honey, talk to me.”

Nothing.

We immediately implemented an intensive early-intervention program that included speech and language therapy and developed a system of communicating with Andrew that…

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