IPad helps boy communicate
April 6, 2012 4:30PM
Jayden McCallum gets a hug from speech pathologist Lorrie Banks. Jayden was awarded an IPOD by Shorewood H.U.G.S. to help him with verbal communication. Banks was instrumental in getting the equipment for Jayden. | submitted photo
Updated: May 10, 2012 8:06AM
Jayden McCallum is a 7-year-old student at Jones Elementary in the Minooka Grade School District. Jayden was diagnosed with autism when he was 2.
One of the hardest things for Jayden is not being able to communicate with his peers, teachers or even his own family. Words just don’t come out the way Jayden intends, and he becomes frustrated.
Autism is a neurological disorder that affects functioning of the brain, according to the Autism Society of America. It impacts a child’s development in both social interaction and communication skills. Children and adults with autism have a difficult time with both verbal and non-verbal communication, social interaction and even leisure or play activities.
Most of us couldn’t fathom not being able to answer a simple question out loud, even if we knew the answer. If choosing food from a menu or asking for help with a simple task took a long time to get across to another person, how would we feel?
Thanks to Jayden’s speech pathologist, Lorrie Banks of the Grundy County Special Education Cooperative who works at Jones Elementary, and the organization Shorewood H.U.G.S., Jayden is learning to communicate many of his needs and desires.
To help Jayden communicate in class he originally used a device called GoTalk, a personal communication device. But it was difficult to add words and build a vocabulary, said Jayden’s teacher Amy Housing. It was the size of a textbook, so not very portable, and it took a lot of time to program it with new words.
Jayden and the other students in the STARS (Striving Toward And Reaching Success) Autism program were each given an iPad with a program called Proloquo2Go. The iPad is much lighter in weight and smaller in size, and the software makes communicating quicker and easier for the students, Housing said.
Before, Jayden could only say one or two words at a time, and he had a difficult time pronouncing the words.
But with Proloquo2Go, Jayden is now saying five- and six-word sentences.
The program allows its user to easily find categories of words, each with a picture, such as comments, manners, help words and “I need” words. By touching on the word/picture, the user can combine them to make sentences.
It also has word predictions, kind of like auto correct in texting. Words that typically work together will come up and can be selected to finish a sentence. The sentences or words can be saved and all Jayden has to do is touch his finger on the thing he wants to say and the iPad says it out loud for him.
Jayden has been using the iPad to answer questions in class, choose his own snack, ask for help from his teacher and even at recess, said Housing.
The program was really opening up some doors for Jayden, so his speech pathologist applied to Shorewood H.U.G.S. and asked if it could provide an iPad and the Proloquo2Go software so Jayden could use his new communications skills outside of school.
Through their Hugs and Wishes program, Shorewood H.U.G.S. makes dreams come true for local families.
The whole thing was a surprise to Jayden and his mom, Susan McCallum.
Now Jayden can not only communicate at school, he can take his iPad with him wherever he goes, said Susan.
While it might sound like a small thing to some, it has made a tremendous improvement in Jayden’s temperament since he isn’t so frustrated about communicating with others. At home he can ask what’s for dinner or answer questions with his iPad. He takes it everywhere.
“It’s been amazing,” Susan said.
If you know someone who has a need or a special wish, contact www.shorewoodhugs.org and click on “wishes” for more information.
Reach Kris Stadalsky at email@example.com.