Several things on my never-ending list of “Things I’m Thankful For” truly fall under the “I don’t know what I would do without this” category (family & friends, food, caffeine, house, bed, plunger). A few might fall under the “It simply makes my life a little easier” category (washer & dryer, dishwasher, car, cell phone). And then there’s those things that are in the “I know I don’t NEED this, but I am DAMN glad I have it!” category (iPhone, TiVo, bun warmers in my car).
For me, the iPad falls under two categories: “Educational Tool” and “Sanity Saver.”
I’ve read several articles about how the iPad has become a “Miracle Device” for many children and adults with autism. It has helped some with autism who are completely non-verbal communicate through apps designed especially for that purpose. It has given children a way to express themselves in ways they were not able to before.
This post is about what the iPad has done for Easton, and for our family.
Easton was drawn to it at an early age, probably between 18 months and 2 years. At some point, we discovered that he loved the closing credits of Finding Nemo and Wall-E. (Not the movies…JUST the closing credits.) We thought it was just because he is always drawn to music and the songs at the end of those movies just happened to be ones he liked. My husband put those movies on the iPad, then he would play them, starting at the closing credits, when Easton was having a meltdown. He would stop crying and just look, mesmerized by the screen. He would watch the words scroll up the screen and he would completely calm down. The first time I remember this being a “Thank GOD for the iPad” moment was when I was trimming his nails and he was screaming and thrashing around, making nail trimming impossible. My husband put it on the final scene of Finding Nemo and he STOPPED SCREAMING, he was still…and he just watched.
(Note: It might have been this moment when I realized the iPad, can, in fact, fit nicely into my purse and it would then be joining us at our next outing to our favorite restaurant.)
Eventually (I’m not sure exactly when this happened), he figured out how to get into the movies, push the right button to get into Finding Nemo, and even figured out that he needs to push “Chapter 30.” The reason this made me stop dead in my tracks when I saw it…not only did he figure all of this out while being completely non-verbal, but it was the first time I had seen him use his pointer finger. Usually, kids start pointing to things before the age of 1. Easton was at least 2 1/2. He doesn’t sit in our laps to look at books and point things out. He has YET to ever point to something he sees. It’s a significant developmental delay. However, when it comes to the iPad, he uses his pointer finger to scroll through photos, scenes in movies, and move apps around (to the point where we can’t find them).
We started taking it to every restaurant outing. Then, it came with us to stores, social outings, long car rides, family reunions, photography sessions, haircuts (example of the one place it does NOT keep him calm, but it was worth a try).
If it weren’t for the iPad, we would probably not be able to go out for a meal as a family, EVER.
His favorite thing to do on it now is scroll through our hundreds of photos. He goes to the same albums every time, starts at the same photo, and even stops and stares at the same photos every time he does it. (I wish he would choose a different picture of me to stop on than one where I’m hugely pregnant and look like complete crap, but he stops on it EVERY DAMN TIME…and smiles.)
I took the above photo today. For the first time, I noticed he was mimicking the facial expressions of people in the photos. He was mimicking what they were doing with their hands. This was fascinating to me. If I were to sit down with an actual photo album with him and try to get him to stop on certain pictures, point things out, or mimic facial expressions, he would have ZERO interest. The iPad has shown me that there is so much he sees and understands that we wouldn’t know if we didn’t have it. Just a few days ago, while watching the Finding Nemo closing credits for the 3,347th time, I heard him, for the first time, singing along (not actual words, but more like “ba ba ba ba,” and I have to say, in PERFECT key!) with the song “Beyond the Sea.”
Regardless of what type of man Steve Jobs was, this I know: his brilliance led to an invention that has become an educational tool, a communication device, and in my case (and I’m guessing I’m not alone), a Sanity Saver.
So, everyone: meet iPad. The 5th member of our family. It goes everywhere with us. You better get used to it.