I know one of the many challenges those on the Autistic Spectrum are faced with is communicating with the people around them. While many are only mildly affected (some don’t need any help at all), others have more pronounced problems that may require a device to assist with their communication needs. My nine year old daughter (R) is one of those who uses a device, or “board” as we call it to help her out. Since we like her to speak words as much as possible, we don’t break out her board at home a lot. It is available to her at any time however, and we know what a great help it can be, especially when she’s angry or frustrated about something. Recently, she was upgraded (in a sense) to a different piece of equipment. The new device, an iPad, is a lot lighter and has much more potential than her previous Prentke Romich board, plus it costs much less. These are not the only ones who produce quality products, however. Several companies make various devices that have helped countless people with disabilities lead more independent lives.
First off, these devices are not only for people with Autism. Folks with ALS, Cerebral Palsy, and those who have suffered a stroke all can benefit from using one of these pieces of equipment. DynaVox is one such company that provides a wide assortment of devices for a wide range of disabilities. The Maestro is one of their devices tailor-made for someone on the Autistic Spectrum. It offers the touch screen available on all Adaptive Speech Devices, plus standard Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and camera. It also offers a way to access the keyboard remotely with the Origin Headmouse Extreme, which is something not all types of devices offer. Overall, it is an excellent device, but like many others similar to this, it is a bit heavy. With weights from 2.75 lbs. (1.25 kg) up to 3.44 lbs. (1.56 kg), it can be quite hefty to lug around after a few hours. As far as the cost goes I can only speculate, but when there’s an entire section devoted to funding, you know it’s going to be expensive. There are ways to get assistance to help purchase a device, but there’s usually a bunch of (mostly minor) hoops you have to jump through to get it. But honestly, the ability to help communicate independently is worth it, hoops and all.
One of the other major companies around who makes devices for speech assistance is the Prentke Romich Company. As I stated earlier, R has used a board from this company before. In fact, she’s had several boards from them. The latest one she had was the Accent 1200 in Red, even though it was definitely more Hot Pink than Red. My daughter didn’t mind, though. Pink is her color, for sure! Luckily, we live in an area where the school district pays for the device if the child is deemed qualified. So, instead of paying $8,000 out of pocket, she was able to get it for free. Woot! Yay Texas!! Hopefully there are other places that offer this same benefit. If not, it’s time to write your local representative and get it done. Start with the City Council then move on to your State Rep, and so on and so forth. Badger those guys; that’s what they’re there for! Okay, enough politics. R used several versions from this company over the last few years and we were amazed at the phrases she was able to type on that thing. Truth! It proves that even though someone is non-verbal it doesn’t mean they don’t understand what’s going on around them. Clever girl....
The last one I want to mention is R’s newly acquired iPad, which was also provided by her school (thank goodness). She has only had it a few weeks and we are still in the training phase, but so far it’s been good. It’s only capable of showing one screen right now, with basic words such as “banana, apple, dog, potty,” etc, etc. That’s actually the only negative thing I can say about it so far--the fact that it’s limited in what she can do. She has played on her grandma and grandpa’s iPads' extensively, so she knows what it is capable of. She will get upset at times that her’s doesn’t do everything she thinks it should do and leave it on the floor. When that happens I just put it up and let it charge for the next day. I’m certain they are more consistent with her at school, but yeah, at home sometimes we just try to keep it on an even keel. No need to rock the boat by pushing an unpopular agenda. No worries. Again, I like her to use words as much as possible, so...it's not a problem really.
Undoubtedly, the iPad has been the choice many school districts have gone with over the last few years. Not only is it more cost effective, it’s more lightweight and user friendly. However, one thing to remember is that even though Autistic kids do well with them, everyone else likes them too. There have been several cases reported recently such as this one where iPads have been stolen. I would like to say “Shame on You” to these people, but it’s obvious they don’t care. Yes, it’s a sad state of modern society. Ugh. I don’t want to get started. You wouldn’t like it. I can rant and rave pretty massively.
Anywho, Adaptive Speech Devices are wonderful for anyone who needs help with their verbal communication skills as it can help them out greatly. And please remember that just because a person has a disability, physical or otherwise, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with their mind. They only have a different way to process it, that’s all. Don’t forget, Stephen Hawking (who uses one of these devices) is widely considered one of the greatest minds EVER...yes. We all know how smart he is. Ah, okay. In case you forgot... *funny stuff*