How Google Street Map Has Given One Non Verbal Autistic Boy a voice

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If there is one thing my son Isaac has taught me in the last 8 years it is this:

 
Communication is much more than words.

 

Isaac has severe autism. He has no spoken language. He has global delay, significant learning difficulties and NF1. He struggles with lots of things in life ,but yet there is one thing he excels at and has done for a few years now: he has taught himself to communicate via google street map!

It is a different way of communicating, but for him it works much better than speech or any traditional communication app.

Wherever I take Isaac, wether it is somewhere he is familiar with, or hundreds of miles away to a place he has never been before, he has a special talent of retracing the exact route once home using just google street map and his incredible memory.
In the summer of 2014 when he was just six year old we went on holiday to a cottage 120 miles from home yet a week later he retraced the exact route we travelled including stopping at the very same service station we took a comfort break at!

I was amazed that a child who has no understanding of numbers or letters and barely turned when his name was called could hold such an incredible talent. I was sure it was a one off.

img_6259He attends a school for children with complex needs and is transported there in transport alone for his own safety due to challenging behaviour and seizures. His school is 14 miles from home yet he takes himself there by memory via google street map every afternoon once home and sitting in ‘his’ chair. I put this ability down to the fact he does the same journey daily. I wondered if he had the location stored.

One day I watched him.

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What I witnessed gave me an insight into part of his world I can never be a part of and which he could never tell me about. Watching him use google street map gave me peace of mind as he showed me step by step the route his taxi goes and even where the car parks to get him out…in fact he even took me to the door of the building he goes into! All without speaking a single word

He uses google street map for his every communication need now.

If he is hungry he goes onto the street map and travels from his home address to a restaurant nearby and brings his iPad to me to show me.
If he wants to go out he uses google street map to show me where he wants to go, from the church he goes to every week, to the train station, and the local park. He takes himself to his grans house and to shopping centres to tell me he wants to go and watch lifts.
He has discovered he can enter a local hotel using google street map and this has opened up new unique ways for him to communicate too.
He tells me when he requires his continence products changed by taking himself to the hotel, going inside and finding the toilets!
He goes into rooms in the hotels and finds an ensuite to communicate he wants a bath at night. When ready for bed he moves around the rooms until he finds a bed and points to it.
He finds my car in the driveway to ask to go in the car.
He finds a clothes shop in the high street to ask me to get him dressed.
When he was highly distressed one day and I could not stop him screaming I put on google street map and he moved around until he found a house with a door open to show me that there was a door open somewhere he could see and this was what was causing his distress! I was in awe of his ability to find such an ingenious way to communicate.

Two weeks ago though he shocked me once again. He was more lethargic than usual and quiet (he may not speak but he makes a lot of noise!). He came and sat beside me and used his skill on google street map to take himself to the doctors surgery! For the first time ever he was able to communicate that he was feeling unwell! This was incredible. I cried. It was nothing serious thankfully but to be able to say he communicated he was not feeling good to a doctor was amazing.

Isaac is not a genius. He can not write his own name, dress himself, read or write or use cutlery. He requires round the clock care. He can not speak one word. He is severely autistic yet he has found a way to connect with others that is as unique and special as he is.

Google street map has helped millions find their way in life but none more so than one non verbal autistic little boy named Isaac.

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38 thoughts on “How Google Street Map Has Given One Non Verbal Autistic Boy a voice

  1. Pingback: How Google Street Map Has Given One Non Verbal Autistic Boy a voice | faithmummy

  2. This is another fantastic way of communicating. Perhaps at school he could use this to say decide if he wanted a certain book or something. I hope it continues to open many doors for him in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is utterly amazing. I do think school should re-think the no internet access as this is not helping Isaac to communicate in the way he can. A word about GIRFEC and the threat of a strongly worded letter perhaps?

    But seriously, what a breakthrough.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. My non verbal adult son communicates in a variety of ways too, and has relied on Google Maps many times, but this is truly amazing and wonderful. I would push the school for wifi access for him, or look into adding the Ipad to a cell service package to give him internet access at all times.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Miriam – I love this post. I have an autistic son and he also loves Google Maps… but does not use it in such an amazing way! I am writing a book and I would love to interview you for it. Can we connect somehow? I live in the U.S.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. When I read this I got goosebumps. I have a three year old son who has severe autism and is non verbal. His sense of direction is out of this world. Even though he cannot talk he will protest if we go different routes. He can find his way through malls and stores the first time he goes. I cannot wait to show him google maps to see what he will do. Thank you for sharing! Go Isaac!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Separation anxiety or a good memory  – First Time Valley Mam 

  8. My son (now nearly 18) does exactly the same. First time I have come across another child doing the same as him. He can take me to places he last visited when he was 2 and put the little man down right outside. He also uses it to communicate.

    Would love to talk more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My 10 year old son does this too.
      It can be years since he last visited a place and he can still retrace the route right up to the very entrance he used.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow – what a hope-filled, inspirational story !!

    We stumbled across one of your blogs via facebook a few years ago, and one of those “share a memory from 2014” messages has brought me back – I’m so, so glad that it did.

    The blog we read a few years ago was when Isaac got his first wheelchair and his disability “became visible”. It resonated with us so much because if we were as eloquent as you are, your words would have been exactly ours as we were going through precisely the same thing with our son at the time.

    Our son is now 7 years old, has no speech (but screams and bangs a lot), has profound and multiple learning difficulties, global development delay, sensory processing disorder etc, etc, etc… in short, so similar to your own son, but my sons problems are not caused by autism, but by a genetic disorder (partial duplication of his 13th chromosome).

    What a special and unique gift this is for you all. I hope and pray and long for a time when Charlie finds a way of communicating with us – often we despair that it will never happen – Isaac’s story renews that hope and determination that one day we will find a similar breakthrough.

    Thank you so much for sharing this …

    Liked by 1 person

  10. OMG this is so cool!! What an amazing post from an amazing parent, of an amazing child. I’m on the autism spectrum, too, and I can relate to the practice of using alternative methods of communication. It can be so, so helpful. And how tuned in you are to recognize it! Many parents wouldn’t. Brilliant post, thank you 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hello this is so emotional and inspiring. Can i ask which tool /app do u use for going inside the hotel finding toilets etc as googlemap doesnt allow u inside buildings so just curious if ur using a game or something so i can try with my son. Autistic kids have a very visual brain and sounds like his memory is incredible also!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. We discovered that My son, Liam employs GoogleEarth in a similar way. Not for communication tool- like your son does- that is ingenious of your boy!
    Rather we were just shocked to learn that Liam could retrace the route to any place he had ever visited, no matter how long ago and will often “take” is directly to the very entrance door he used.
    Such an impressive visual memory skill.
    Forget about the notion that folks with ASD should be thought of as, “Different, not less.”
    Our kids are “Different AND better because of it!”

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Pingback: How Google Street View Has Given One Non-Verbal Boy With Autism A Voice – www.smithssite.com

  14. Life is poetry! My heart is bursting reading this.
    He is a clever wee lad! My son is nearly 6, mainly nonverbal, (but uses echolaia appropriately at times.) And astounds me with his sense of direction. I might even pull up Street maps tonight (the nights are looooong, aren’t they, Sister 😉) and see if he’s into it! Either way Im so intrigued and inspired and happy for you all that he has found a way to make his silent voice “heard”/ seen! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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