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Friday, April 9, 2010

A Nine Year-Old Autistic Boy, His TapToTalk, and His Great New School

This is a guest post from Crystal Daso, a TapToTalk Mom:

Our Malachi is 9 years old and nonverbal. He has Autism and is at the low functioning end of the spectrum. We moved last summer and this new school district has been amazing for him. He goes to Westlawn Elementary School in Cedarburg, WI. He made more progress in the first 3 months of school than he had made in his 9 years of life. We learned that he can read. In no time we learned that he can also do math. He went from not adding even two digits to being at grade level in math! Grade level! Most recently I have learned that he knows the planets and their order and colors them according to their "proper" colors.

He also was using a GoTalk machine at school but outgrew it fast. They had to keep erasing and recording things all day long and he would grow impatient that they weren't quick enough.

This is when I learned about TapToTalk and thought it looked like something that would really work for us. I liked how portable it was so that we could carry it around with us to church, the store, etc. It looked normal and trendy and not some big bulky device that makes him stand out from everyone. It's just...neat. And totally affordable.

They also recently made it so that you can not only use the program on the DS but you can use it on the web as well with either the mouse or with a touch screen. That is neat! So at school they can create an album on the web just for something they need right away but never add it to the DS card.

Malachi has been using this for several months now and transports it between school and home. We had a planning meeting a couple months ago at school with the assistive device lady to figure out how best to make this work. So it now has albums loaded up for school use and he can click on "I need a break" and then picks what he wants to use in the "break room." He can use it to say how he's feeling, what he wants to eat, etc. It's really awesome.

One thing I like about it compared to the GoTalk when he was bringing it home is that he likes it. He used to fight hard about using the GoTalk but he will actually go into his backpack, get his DS out, load TapToTalk up and tell me what he wants. The only thing is that he will try to tell me what he wants when I am not even in the room so he thinks that just because he pushes a button I know what he wants. You can record a voice for each picture as well, so we just have the volume set high so that if I'm in the other room I can hear "I'm hungry" and then "I want a rice cake."

I just preordered the new DSi XL after his OT told me about it yesterday and I can't wait to get it because the screen is 93% larger and it will be easier for him to push his pictures when we have all the rows full. (You can put a few pictures or many pictures in an album, but the more pictures you have, the smaller they get. He can still push them but I have to remind him to use one finger which is good for him anyway.) I also learned yesterday that he is using the DS Chat function to chat with another DS at school. So he is learning how to chat reciprocally which is fantastic. So having the larger screen will be good for typing.

So there is a mini update on Malachi and major props to the TapToTalk team. I highly recommend this program to anyone. Support at TapToTalk is so fast to respond. They’ve been incredible.

So if you have a child who would benefit from a way to get what they want to say out, check it out. It's been amazing for our family and it's just so affordable. Especially since many kids already have the device anyway.

If you have a TapToTalk idea or story you'd like us to share with other TapToTalk users, please email us at blog@taptotalk.com.

The TapToTalk Team
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