I am a Mum of six children two of them having severe and complex needs. One of my sons, is sixteen and has Tuberous Sclerosis, which presents him with mild Autism and learning difficulties, as well as a whole host of other problems and disorders. I also have an eleven year old who is also Autistic. His Autism does not relate to my other sons condition, so I am told. I have been a full time carer for 16 years and indeed my husband and I are the experts in both our boys’ conditions. We have fought long and hard to get our boys everything that they need to be able to make progress in their education, social lives and personal development.
My sixteen year old lost his sight when he was eleven due to an unrelated condition. He became very isolated through all that he had to go through. No friends would visit him and he had no means of making friends outside the home. At school people knew him and said hello. He found it very difficult to make friends due to the amount of time he was spending out of school, because of medical need. Mainstream schooling became inappropriate and we had to fight for him to go to specialist schooling. I then fought to get him the technological support he needed this included a mobile phone, two lap tops, one personal and one educational and a Braille note.
Since having the assistive technology, my son has become an expert on the technology that he needs to support him. He tells me what he needs and how it will help him. It has given him a purpose, and he now informs other people about their needs and the help they can access. The technology has given him access to blogs, information, on-line banking and he spends hours researching things that matter to him.
I am very pro independence and he can now access the outside world. Where before he had no friends, little communication skills and limited prospects, he now wants to help others develop apps and has benefited hugely from on-line audio described games and apps. He is cool and so is his technology. He now fits into society and has an iPhone, which I thought he would never be able to use. I was wrong.
Assistive technology can definitely unlock potential. Whether it should be used all of the time, I don’t think so, but to help unlock a hidden world I believe strongly it should be used at least in moderation.
My sixteen year old now has friends with similar interests and has a social life, still on his terms, but a social life. He has discovered that he can have fun and is starting to accept that people may have a different viewpoint to him. The assistive technology has played a big part of this. He is a happy sixteen year old with a bright future!
In contrast my eleven year old is still on his journey. He is a very sociable, verbal Autistic boy, that doesn’t fit the box that society has placed him into. It took us 10 years to get him diagnosed, and the education system has failed him so far. He is unable to read or write but is very strong with pictures and shapes. He likes to be cool and enjoys chart music and can joke and have fun. However he is slightly out of line with everyone else and the way they think.
Recently he has taken an interest in my Android. I have noticed how aptly he can work his way through the menus and find the apps that he wants to access. He likes all the noises, music and highly vibrant games. So as an experiment a few weeks ago I down loaded some apps they may be of assistance to him. I did not tell him. A few days later he discovered more games on my phone. Lo and behold he started playing the educational games. Playing with phonics and messing about with music came naturally to him. I just observed him. He began repeating the phonic sounds and looking to me for reassurance. I smiled approvingly!
I believe that every child has potential; it is just a matter of what pushes their buttons. Indirect learning works for my child, he hates formal learning. I will soon be investing in an iPad or another Android and exploring this further. If we as parents can find ways to unlock hidden thinking, then I think we should at least try. It will not work for everyone, but imagine those it could help. Social stories could be taught this way, as can the alphabet and personal hygiene or routines. I have even found a behaviour reward app. My son thinks it is very cool!
If you have found this interesting my website will be launching soon www.shelbyartmycreativelife.com and I will be writing a book to explain a little of what our family has discovered on our journey. If you want to follow me on Twitter I am @shelbyart or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Together we can challenge Autism.