Saturday, March 26, 2011

Money...Meet Mouth

For 6 months plus, I have been watching the progress of the phenomenon known as iPad: specifically, the wonderful way that it has fit almost hand and glove into the lives of many autistic children. I have plotted and schemed ways to push school systems toward using them more; I have looked into ways to win one, get one donated, or otherwise find a way to reduce the cost of getting one for Livie. After months of trying to move the technological mountain to my family; we have finally broken down and ordered one for Livie.

For those under a virtual rock, Apple makes the iPad, basically just a little bigger than a GPS device (wait, if you are under a virtual rock, you don't know GPS either). OK, for those still in the ENIAC era: a screen the size of the TV's in the 1950's, but about 499.4 pounds lighter; and as thick as a pulp fiction paperback. Apple announced it's releasing the iPad2 a few weeks ago with a few more bells and whistles. The real exciting thing for us was that Apple put together an 'iPad...Year One' video for the presentation, to show where the iPad has been utilized. One of the stories within this 6 minute video, is the impact that iPads have had on autistic kids. Watch the whole thing if you like, but the autism part begins at around 3:45:

I'm hoping I'm right to say that I can't underestimate the power of having Leo and Shannon in that video that (as Shannon herself put it) :"made Steve Jobs’ keynote audience of tech-heads reach for their hankies" in response to the impact a simple tool had on the lives of the autistic community in such a short time. It means those techies will go back to their desks and begin thinking about programming apps for disabled people; their bosses will begin looking at new target markets like special needs schools. At the very least, it means one really big thing: APPLE noticed US! Having the cutting edge technology tool company notice you is something to cheer.

Meanwhile, back in my little corner of the technologically challenged world, I've finally gotten the green light to go ahead and order Livie an iPad. Spring is the time when money begins to flow, with bonuses and tax refunds aplenty. After months of talking the iPad up, Linda finally had taken notice when the speech therapist had told her about the iPhone Livie was playing with and that Livie was very excited about. I had been telling Linda about the fact that you could get cases for the iPads that would make the more durable, but the idea that Livie would actually LIKE using the iPad never clicked until she started playing with an iPhone.

So, I'm ordering finally ordering the iPad. Me being the frugal shopper (read: cheapskate) I saw the 'sale' price of 399 on the old one (iPad I) and jumped on it. Before I hit the 'buy' button, I started to think about it; Linda gave me feedback from the iPhone speech therapist, and I asked the resident 'expert' too, Dillan. The kid has surpassed me in the technology department, I'm getting old, or maybe he's just getting good. Anyway, the faster chip, the front and rear cameras, the smaller size, and best of all, the ultra-cool cover that converts into a stand or keyboard rest, really sold me that the extra 100$ was money well spent. This is one of the very few times I have been on the North side of the technology adoption curve! Although now I'm having buyers remorse because we have to wait 4-6 weeks before it arrives. With the Japan tragedies also contributing to potential delays, my little Scottish alter ego is berating me saying "See what ya git for adoptin' technology early?"

We have so many expectations for Livie on the iPad. At the very least, it's going to be a great (and expensive) toy or her. She has very few things that she likes to play with, most of which are cause and effect buttons, screens or musical instruments. The 'fingers on' manipulation of the iPad screen is a natural for her as well as for many autistic kids. She likes the computer, but lacks the hand eye spatial coordination to effectively use the mouse. My hope is that the excitement of having this larger sized 'iPhone' that she already loves, coupled with the myriad of fun (and cheap) apps, we can develop her use of the iPad into a basic communication tool. There are quite a few apps for communication, ranging from .99 simple cause and effect thingies, up to a full blown AAC (alternative Augmentative Communication) devices app that can turn the iPad into a tool that could potentially replaces devices costing thousands of dollars...all for $189.00!

So here we are, waiting for the end of April to see if our latest bet will yield great results. Truth be told, we've invested in the past 10 times more heavily on other things, with both time and money. What's weird this time though is that I am excited about something others can relate to, others on the OUTSIDE WORLD! When I talk about going from two to three times a week for a occupational therapist, or going to see a doctor about an issue, people can nod, but they can't relate to it in the same way. But, if I tell them about the iPad and what's going on with autistic kids, their eyes light up; they have something they can tell their friends and relatives about what the iPad can do! It just feels good to be part of a revolution and pushing the cutting edge.

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