Special needs: iPad gives son a voice

Special needs: iPad gives son a voice


OC Moms


It’s the morning after Christmas and I’m sitting at my kitchen table, coffee in one hand and my special needs son Andrew’s iPad in the other, hard at work.

He had received some wonderful gifts and toys, and as I do so often whenever he’s in need of new vocabulary, I spend some time programming his device so he has a way to request, describe, and talk about his loot.


Not more than 30 minutes after I’m done, my son approaches me with his iPad and, after careful consideration, asks:

“Can I play the Frank and Tractor video game?”

It never gets old; the careful way he maneuvers his finger across the screen, in search of the perfect words.

It never gets old; the excitement that builds as he gently presses the right buttons.

It never gets old; the look that comes across his face as he hears the computerized voice speak the words he cannot utter himself.

I knew when we got the iPad and purchased Proloquo2Go – the augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app we chose for our son – we were tapping into a level of potential for Andrew we had not dared to imagine prior to the birth of this technology.

Our hopes were high that not only would the world make more sense for our child, our child would be better understood by the world.

Functional communication: It’s a goal most parents of non-verbal children have for their kids.

The ability to express emotions, share likes and dislikes, ask for help, tell someone they’re hungry. That the words don’t come readily, easily, quickly for our children, in a way that society can comprehend, scares us, paralyzes us, makes us feel helpless, makes us afraid for their safety and overall quality of life.

We work so hard to give them the basics. We use sign language, picture cards, symbols, gestures; some of us would readily resort to standing on our heads and offering our own tongues to the gods if it meant giving our children a voice.

So you can imagine that when a device such as the iPad comes along and holds the promise of language for someone who cannot speak, the paralysis that has taken hold of our hearts is suddenly replaced with a level of hope most of us never thought possible.

The word miracle comes to mind.

Andrew has waited long enough. He taps me on the shoulder, making sure to get my undivided attention.

Again he presses the button and asks:

“Can I play the Frank and Tractor video game?”

The entire room is filled with the sound of a computerized voice; Andrew’s voice.

And it never sounded more beautiful.

This Modified Life is a column by Jo Ashline for and about the families in Orange County living with special needs. Jo is a married mother of two who writes regularly for OC Moms, the Orange County Register’s parenting section.


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