The segment on 60 Minutes about autistic people using iPads seems to be generating a huge buzz lately. I finally watched it yesterday. A few reflections....
I really felt for the man with autism who had been using a piece of paper, pointing to letters, to communicate. It does seem there have been things out there for a few years that would work better than that, but it was wonderful to see him using the iPad. He was obviously ready for it.
I was less sure about the kids shown. A few of them reminded me of Janey. She uses an iPad a little at school, and I asked her teacher if she thought I should get her one. She said to wait a while and she could tell me better, which I appreciate. Janey is not really ready to fully use the language type program shown on the segment, but I liked a few things I saw there a lot---the emotions app, the vocabulary app, etc. I have a feeling Janey could be like the boys shown who didn't talk much at all but was able to identify all kinds of vocabulary words. I'd love to see Janey use that particular program. She did something similar with a language test one time---pointed to words I had no idea she knew, like "castle" and "squirrel". But I could also see her just getting obsessed with the button that takes you back to the menu. We'd have to cover it somehow.
I hope iPads don't become the next big thing in autism---the thing that is supposed to fix everything, like taking dairy out of the diet, using ABA, the bad old days of Facilitated Communication, etc. As the segment correctly pointed out, they aren't going to be something every autistic kid is interested in. And it will be annoying if for years, people assume somehow autism has been "cured" by iPads.
I still think I might get an iPad for Janey, if I can afford it. It's something that wouldn't be a waste of money, because if she has no interest in, I sure would, or Tony, or the boys. That's a nice thing---that it's not some piece of equipment that is very specific. Janey is attracted to my iPod Touch, which might be a good sign.
And a last reflection---the expense. I'll find a way to get an iPad, if I need to, I'll go into debt or whatever more than we already are. But there are many autistic kids out there with no way to get one, and I'm sure there are many kids in school systems where they will never be given one to use at school, either (Janey's school use is on a shared one). I wish everyone who wrote about their autistic child considered the money issue. I can't say how many autism books I've read by people who seem to have unlimited funds, and never mention that many people could not dream of setting up home ABA programs or doing horse therapy or moving to some other country or being in the "right" school distract. I hope if somehow I ever get more money, I will use it to help kids with autism that don't have many resources. Thank you, Doug Flutie---he's someone doing exactly what I would try to do, if I could.