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iPad plus apps

January 24, 2012

As most of you know my oldest son just happens to have Down Syndrome and along with that he has Speech Apraxia (basically he knows what he wants to say but can’t always get his mouth to say it so the rest of us can understand him), because of this we have often thought about augmentative communication.  What is augmentative communication?   According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. We all use AAC when we make facial expressions or gestures, use symbols or pictures, or write.

Well, those of you that know Nick personally know that carrying around a notebook with pictures to point out wouldn’t be his thing.  To haul around a Dynavox (bulky electronic thing that costs major dollars and is definitely not what your cool teens carry) would be another no go.  Sign language was shot down on just about every IEP (Individual Education Plan) as “not everyone knows sign language.”  (Oh, and I guess we don’t want to take the time to locate a translator or teach those that work with Nick his signs.)  So, when I heard that Apple’s iPad had an “app for that” I got excited.  I started looking at ways to get an iPad (those suckers while cheaper than a Dynavox are still way expensive for the average Joe especially if he is raising a child with special needs) and that all so important “app for that.”

We applied to our local Family Support Services for the iPad, a case, insurance and the app (the app we wanted was one that most everyone in the DS community that we came across was recommending) total amount applied for was approximately $700.  We were told the fund limits families to no more than $1,000 a year.  We thought we’d be good — we were well under the total allowed and it was for a needed item that would help both Nick and our family life.   (Just think we would have a means of figuring out exactly what he was saying for once!  No more automatic no answers when we didn’t understand — we’ve learned the hard way that maybe or we’ll see meant “yes” to Nick.  We’d also learned the hard way that saying “yes” when you don’t understand can get you into some hot-water.)  Well, we found out we were approved for $350.  Major disappointment — that wouldn’t buy the iPad ($499 minimum) and we were told we couldn’t use it for the app (FSS doesn’t buy give money for apps — they might not get the one they said they were getting).  Our TC fought hard to change their minds without any luck.  She even explained that the iPad w/o the app was basically a toy.  (Yes, we have put games on the iPad but most of our current apps are educational or therapeutic in nature, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.)

So, with $350 in hand we needed to find more sources for funding.  During this time I learned of A4CWSN and was amazed by the time Gary James took in reviewing (and videoing the review) of various apps.  Gary told how he was the father of children with special needs and how he had discovered how the iPad could help his children and wanted to share with others in the special needs community.  (We can be a pretty tenacious bunch — we’ve learned early on in our children’s lives that we are their number one advocates and  we also tend to support each other.)  Gary’s dream was to put an iPad into at least 1 child’s hands in every state (so the 50/50 campaign was born).  Many people, businesses and developers have chipped in to make this dream a reality.  Unfortunately, there have been some disagreements and words have been said.  People have been hurt and I’m afraid what started out as a wonderful dream (that did come true for over 50 children and their families) may be ruined.

So, now we have our iPad and a whole slew of apps — many thanks to those developers who have donated apps to A4CWSN and other reviewers who have shared those codes with others.  For OT we’ve got Dexteria — my only suggestion so far to the developer has been to consider adding an option where the therapist (or parent) can include words their child uses to practice handwriting both cursive and manuscript.  For Speech we have iLeap WB-at, iPreposition, iSentence, Articulation, and Proloquo2Go (his ACC app).  We also have math apps, story apps, puzzle apps, spelling apps, games and other educational apps (ranging from preschool to high school level).

We have discovered that Nick’s aptitude for electronics has forced us to monitor his time on the iPad (he quickly figured out YouTube — hoping now I can steer him to Gube {rated G YouTube videos}), he also figured out how to reactivate the wi-fi (after I turned it off).  Passwords were quickly added to many things.  Nick, like most boys his age prefers the action games to the education apps, fortunately, he will listen to me and do the educational ones if the fun ones are also on the table to play later.  Just this past weekend we got Educreations and ShowMe for free — they are basically whiteboards for your iPad.  The boys were having fun coming up with basketball plays tonight (we took a picture of half-court and they used both whiteboard apps to run plays).

Well, that’s it for now — got to go run Nick back to bed so I can go to bed.

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