April 13, 2011
Still My Type
My mom likes to send me online articles related to autism, and due to her diligence I recently read a piece entitled “iPad Not a Miracle for Children with Autism” (which, ironically, I perused after I had just posted a blog entry about my son’s use of the device, entitled “It’s a Miracle”). In it, the author claims that the device itself is not worthy of Vatican anointing, but rather, “the miracle there, as it always has been, is the parents and professionals who work with children with autism.”
Of course, he’s right.
I read through the entire article, then skimmed through the commentary (which with these kind of pieces, is often as interesting, if not more interesting, than the work itself), and reminded myself once again how imperative it is that we facilitate Justin’s acquisition of this device. He’s already employing it at home far more practically than he did his former augmentative machine, initially requiring only the slightest of physical prompts to make his requests with it, prompts that have now been downgraded to my voice only. Justin’s not debating scripture with me or telling me which American Idol contestant got robbed, but slowly, incrementally, he’s incorporating more dialogue into his daily routine. It’s still not a spontaneous event for him. It may never be.
And I have to accept this.
When I was sifting through the responses to the article however, I came upon one mother who described what the device had meant to her son, now almost seven, a child the same age as Justin is now. She described his severe apraxia and limited communication skills, and how over the course of the past year the technology had diminished some of those challenges for him. He was now manding for preferred activities, actions, and even specifying which rides he preferred at Disney World. Social questions were being spontaneously implemented, even down to requesting a particular restaurant within the confines of a mall they had recently frequented. In short, with the touch of a fingertip, the world had become a locale far more broad for her child.
And I still have no idea if this tool will widen Justin’s horizons to a similar degree, ever.
I will say however, that when I watch him use the iPad, I’m seeing my son captivated by something other than food, singing plush toys, or DVD players for the first time in almost eight years. Due to his intelligence and fairly tender age, I will continue to indulge in the hope that this device may be the vehicle through which we communicate better with one another, and far more importantly, the one through which he can get his needs met in an increasingly complex world. I’ve never given up on that dream, and I never will as long as he’s breathing. For years now his progress in this area (outside of academics) has remained fairly static, despite speech therapy, the diligence of his teachers, and his maniacal mother. I’ve learned to redirect my expectations of progress into other areas of development, and they’ve mostly been fulfilled. Despite my desire for him to converse, I consider us to be fortunate in this regard.
But this slender, chic, rectangle has at the very least returned hope to this practical and pragmatic woman, hope that my son, in his own way, might one day “talk”. And if nothing else, I consider that hope to be my miracle.