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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

One autistic boy's introduction to an iPhone and TapToTalk

Jack Kieffer writes a blog called Autism Plugged In, where he "combines my passion about gadgets with my desire to assist children with Autism." Here is his story about one autistic boy's introduction to an iPhone and TapToTalk:
...I sat down with Kevin to work on the iPhone. He had never before used an iPhone, iTouch, iPad, or any device of this sort. I showed him that the home button would bring up the main screen, and then I showed him how to swipe it to unlock the iPhone. Furthermore, I pointed out that he could turn off and lock the device using the small rectangular button at the top of the phone. (Kevin is often not verbal, or if he is, he's hard to understand, so he needed to show me that he knew what was going on by doing the actions himself.) Soon, he was unlocking the phone by himself and putting it to sleep when he didn’t want to use it anymore. He caught on to the technology surprisingly fast.

I learned something important from my first session with Kevin – he doesn't work very well with clutter, whether it be virtually or otherwise. When we were initially looking at the home screen, it was full of apps...The problem was, Kevin didn't know where to start. (Before I left, I put all of the apps except four into a folder on a separate page, so he wouldn't feel overwhelmed.)

I want to talk about...his experience with the TapToTalk application. As I said earlier, Kevin is not very verbal, and it's extremely rare to hear him say an entire sentence. When he opened TapToTalk, he first tapped the Toilet icon, which says, "I have to go to the bathroom" out loud. After the application said this phrase, Kevin repeated it. We all looked at him in excited disbelief--he's not one of the kids who frequently repeats instructions from people or conversations that he overhears, he sticks to basic words and strings a couple of them together. Of course, Kevin went back and journeyed into the "food" section and proceeded to make the application say, "I want to eat a (insert food here.)" and repeated the phrase. This successful interaction was very encouraging!
Very encouraging, indeed!
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