One thing you learn (or hopefully you do) pretty early on when it comes to autism, is that everyone on the spectrum is different.
Just as unique as you and I, and anyone else in this world
Being a dad of two autistic boys, they’ve proved that to me time and time again.
Even though they’re both autistic, non-verbal, have sensory challenges, they also couldn’t be more different.
One such difference is how technology has become an essential part of their lives and in completely different ways.
For my eldest son Jude, an iPhone or iPad with YouTube on is his idea of heaven.
For someone who struggles with the stresses of everyday life, and the sensory overload it can bring, his tablet gives him the chance to escape and relax.
From an early age cartoons and music videos seemed to be a great soother for him.
When overwhelmed, or coming down from a meltdown, it would often help.
However, it could also have the reverse effect.
Being non-verbal, and having limited communication skills, Jude would struggle to make it clear what it was he wanted to watch.
Even though he only had a couple of cartoons he’d watch, I’d constantly be having to change back and forth, trying different episodes, as he’d get more and more upset.
Unable to use the remote control, he relied solely on somebody else making a choice and changing it for him over and over.
Then one day we tried a tablet, and whilst it took some time, thanks to the ease of touchscreen technology, and YouTube’s recommended videos, he soon figured out how to use it himself.
He could be in control. He could stop, forward, or skip whatever it was he wanted to watch. It suddenly gave him a huge amount of independence.
When at home, it’s never far from his side.
Even if it’s just kept on, playing music on the other side of the room, knowing it’s there and he can access it when he needs to, massively reduces Jude’s anxiety.
If he gets stressed he knows he can simply pick up the iPad and go to his room, he’ll be able to find and control what it is he watches to help him calm down.
Just knowing he has that option has allowed him (and us) to try different things, go out to more places, knowing that portable jukebox is only seconds away.
For my other son Tommy, whilst he too enjoys YouTube and playing games on a tablet, it has become way much more.
His iPad is now his voice.
Non-verbal like his brother, Tommy has been progressing really well over the last year using PECS.
So much so that we have now moved onto an app called Proloquo2go instead.
With the help of the speech and language team at school, Tommy is now able to create and use simple sentences to request what it is he wants.
Not only that but because the app speaks out loud what it is he’s trying to say, he seems to be much more motivated to use it throughout the day.
He knows he can pick it up, and with the press of a few buttons, he can search for the right words to use to be able to communicate with me.
The reduction in frustration since we’ve been using it has been huge, and I’m sure this is just the beginning in how far his levels of communication are going to develop.
Two brothers, two very different boys, both living happier lives thanks to the wonders of technology!