My son is 5 years old. And he has an Ipad. He happens to think it is the most wonderful thing he has right now.
He can not speak. He has autism and learning difficulties and neurofibromatosis type 1. He has vision problems. He is developmentally less than 2 years old. But he loves his Ipad.
Today that Ipad gave me yet another breakthrough in his life. Let me tell you about it. Apologies if I get a bit emotional about this though as for me this is absolutely amazing: Today my son went into the dentist room for the very first time!
So what you might say? Well we have been taking Isaac to visit the dentist for 3 months now. We are incredible blessed with having been referred to a specialist autism dentist who happens to have a practice just 5 minutes from our home. This lady, and her dental hygenist, have the patience of saints. Other than Christmas week Isaac has been visitting the dentist every 2-3 weeks since late October. But until today we could not get him out of the waiting room. You see the waiting room just happened to have two of the most amazing things known to Isaac: automatic doors and a lift! Total sensory heaven to my boy and the two things he finds it impossible to come away from. They have a lure that is more powerful than any magnet, a draw more compelling than caffeine. He just ‘has’ to play with those doors and watch that lift. The dentist doesn’t stand a chance really. Not only are these things so compelling for him but he struggles majorly with transition so finds it traumatic to leave one place to go to another, especially when he is having fun.
But today that Ipad saved the day. While Isaac had fun at the doors and the lift I recorded him using his own Ipad. The video was less than 2 minutes but it was enough. When his name was called I started the video, and used the Ipad to lead the way into the dentist room. He was so excited to see himself enjoying his favourite activities he never noticed he was actually transitioning from one place to another. We actually got him into the dentist room! So he sat on my knee and watched his video clip over and over. It was like having the waiting room in the room with him. It took away from the sensory overload of a strange smelling, sterile, busy dentist room with voices of strangers talking. He focussed in on his own little idea of heaven and never noticed my tears of relief. I got my boy into the dentist room. And all because of his iPad!
I was able to capture a moment, as it happened, savour the pleasure he was having, and replay it in a way that allowed him to experience the noise, the movement, the excitement and emotion all over again and again and again.
I was also able to briefly take some quick pictures with the iPad of the dentist, her hygienist, the room, the chair, even some of the tools. Isaac will scroll through these when he wants to see his video and even though he may not realise it, his brain will still be processing those images. Making it all so much more familiar and less intimidating for him nex time. We can add those images to the social story we have, making it even more personal to him. The technology playing in my favour once more.
We have had Isaac’s iPad for about 6 months now. And it has made a huge difference to his development. Before he got the Ipad he could not point. Through watching his twin sister, and us, and through a huge amount of ‘hand over hand’ he can now finger point and touch what he wants himself:
The iPad has allowed us to take instant photos of things of relevance to Isaac such as our everyday meals, his favourite snacks, his most used toys,people we see regularly and places we visit. Not only can these pictures be printed out instantly but they can easily be taken by Isaac from his viewpoint thus making the world much more accessible to him. He is a visual learner and has no language so photos help him share past experiences with us and give him a means of communication. When he has no access to his printed photos we can simply scroll on his iPad and find what we need. And if we don’t have a picture already there is also the modern gift of google pictures. This has helped his understanding so much and made taking him out much more managable. We can show him where we are going long before we get there. Even if we have never been there before ourselves.
The ipad is not simply a solitary experience for Isaac either. I have used you tube and other applications to create opportunities of quality time together. While Isaac will not let me read him a book, he will allow us to look at an interactive story together on the ipad. For a child who does not like adult interaction at times this opportunity is golden and precious to me. And allows his twin sister to join in the action too:
Precious shared moments together. Made possible by the iPad.
So we use it as a communication aid. We use it to link home and school by sending photos live to his school by email. We use it to develop his sound making by using apps that repeat back to him any noise he makes. We use it to help him make sense of the world around him.We use apps to help his development such as simple 4 piece jigsaws that we can help and guide him to put in place. We use sensory apps to give him sensory ‘time out’ as opposed to him having to sit on his own with expensive sensory equipment in his room. We use match making apps to help him using hand over hand to learn to match and sort. We use musical apps to allow him to express himself musically. We use it as a timer to tell him when one activity has finished and it is time for something else. We use art and creative apps to help him learn to mark make. And we let him chill by watching his favourite clips on you tube.
But most of all the iPad is giving Isaac a reason to communicate. Because he still has no idea how to close down an application, or open a new one, or get the next video he wants on you tube. So he has to ‘ask’ for help. The ipad therefore motivates and encourages him to communicate and realise others can be of use to him.
So, despite what many think about it being a solitary activity, for Isaac it is actually making him more socially aware and more willing to communicate.
It is a wonderful piece of technology with huge potential. And over time we will be using it more and more to help him develop.
Yes, my kid has an iPad. He happens to think it is the most wonderful thing he has right now.
And I agree with him.
Thank you to everyone who helped us collect old mobile phones to exchange for this technology.
And thank you to http://www.heartsandmindsphones.co.uk/for making such a difference to my son.