Listening to the beginning of Charlie and Jenn’s journey, it’s easy to feel their frustration, confusion, and even panic as they describe the experience of finding answers for their son’s diagnosis of autism two years ago. From the initial meeting with a pediatrician to the first day of therapy, it can take several months, even a year, for parents to find help for a newly diagnosed child with autism.
Miles’ journey to receiving a diagnosis went faster than some, however Jenn and Charlie were left to discern the meaning of their son’s autism while searching for resources that were available for treatment. Finding a clinic that has availability can be just as difficult as waiting for an initial diagnosis. Luckily, by word of mouth, Jenn and Charlie found help, and their son Miles was soon referred to Boyer Children’s Clinic.
Before coming to Boyer, Jenn and Charlie describe feelings of helplessness as it became increasingly difficult to connect with Miles. As they began taking their son to therapy, Jenn and Charlie were taught how to interact with their son, how to have a relationship with him, and how to live with what Jenn and Charlie call the “new normal” – a normal that gave their son the warmth, comfort, attention, and style of communication that he could receive on his own terms. Jenn shared that they were able to find a middle ground where they could seek treatment for Miles, while also allowing him the opportunity to be a kid.
In 2011, Boyer received funds granted by the D.V. & Ida McEachern Charitable Trust which the clinic used to purchase twelve iPads in the summer of 2011. In addition, the clinic was able to purchase 50 apps for the iPads to be used with children within the field of augmentative communication. Boyer reported to the Trust that the iPads were most effective for children in at least two different diagnostic categories: children with severe motor visual impairments, and children with autism spectrum disorders.
When used in early intervention sessions, Boyer therapists and educators find that the iPads prove to be successful tools of communication as an adjunct to traditional interventions with children on the autism spectrum. These children often learn better with visual supports such as photos and videos. In the past, therapists used pictures to help children learn what to expect and how to communicate. Now, using special iPad Apps such as Pictello, Boyer therapists can create individualized “stories” with actual photos or videos of the child. The photos are sequenced into a story so that a child can see the important steps in a task they are learning. When the iPad is used as an augmentative communication device, children can learn to make choices and indicate their needs and wants.
As Miles received therapy services at Boyer, he found help by using an iPad to communicate with his parents and clinicians. He responds to the iPad to communicate his preferences for food, clothing, and activities. Boyer customized Miles’ iPad with his preferred apps in order to utilize the resources that were best for Miles.
Jenn says, “His interest in playing with toys has grown and his attention to his teachers is getting better. He's sitting unrestrained in class and follows directions, participating with his peers and also using the iPad to communicate with us and focus in on basic learning skills when he becomes overwhelmed with interacting with adults.”
Charlie credits the clinic for helping him connect with his son again. Today, Miles is a healthy, happy boy who has found a way to communicate with those who love him. As Jenn and Charlie look towards taking the next steps post-Boyer, they are grateful for the time Miles has had with the clinic and are certain that the services he received at Boyer have set an integral foundation for the rest of his life.
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