Emma has begun using her new iPad, which is just in time since her favorite paper keyboard looks like it went through a lawn mower. Her teacher gave it to me and it has been her favorite because according to Emma, it is colorful. Somewhere along the line, Hayden began using it as his favorite new stim toy and that was the beginning of the end of it. He always manages to get his happy hands on it.
The iPad is a lot different from the paper keyboards she’s been using and also a little different from an actual keyboard. The letters are touch sensitive, which is great because Emma barely has to touch it. She has to be precise, though, and that takes some major effort. It also forces her to hit the letters more directly, which might help her with pointing. I put music on it and some fun apps that I’m hoping will encourage her to want to play games. There are a lot of possibilities with it! I’ve also been able to find a cheap ($1.99 – thank you Angela!) app that is a type to speak keyboard called Speak It. But the voice is too old as Emma put it. I’m still considering getting Proloquo2go for the iPad, an application designed for communication, that uses picture symbols and a keyboard and talks. it’s a reasonable alternative to some of the more expensive AAC (augmentative communication) devices. We have used the Dynavox V for Emma the last couple years and it’s powerful, but it isn’t quite as portable as we’d like and is very expensive if you purchase one. This is why I think that the iPad is a great way to go.
This world of letters and fingers and keyboards can be a little overwhelming. I’m having to keep my patience in check and remember that we just started this whole thing a short four months ago. I have to learn when to push and when to lay off. I want so badly for her to be able to say everything and anything she wants to, whenever she wants to. I want it so badly that I’m not always careful about how much pressure I put on her.
I see the effort Emma puts into every letter – how difficult it can be for her. Tito Mukhopadhyay (you knew I’d mention him again) learned how to write by about five or six with the help of his mother, who tied a pencil to his hand and taught him how. In his book, he tells of the trials of learning how to write and describes what it was like during that time….
“Every time I held the pencil, I had to focus all my concentration on the action. My senses were strained by practicing holding the pencil, resulting in discomfort, the kind you feel when the hair of your legs are stroked in the opposite direction of their growth. It was like wearing a new pair of shoes.
…Did I want to write? Of course, I did.
So why did I drop the pencil again and again? When my senses are overstimulated, there is no stopping them. My senses are so heightened that they bury every bit of reason. I was overstimulated by my sensory defenses against the pencil.
– taken from How Can I Talk If My Lips Don’t Move by Tito Mulkhopadhyay
But Tito did learn how to write despite his challenges and wrote several books. This is a boy who was not even allowed to attend school.
This will be a journey in itself for us both. There are good days and bad. Days where all Emma can type is I am tired. The last week has been tough for her. She struggles to type anything, her hand unsteady and her frustration very evident.
Emma: I am off today
I realized that she feels the pressure and expects herself to succeed. And I have to try not to be the pushy stage mom waiting in the wings, keyboard in hand, ready to shove it in her face every second of the day! It is a lot of hard work on her part!!! I must maintain a balance between coaxing her to type, and making sure I’m there for her – ready when she wants to type.
Last night I held up her favorite, raggedy paper keyboard that is too smashed up to even point to any more. But Emma reached out to spell anyway…..
Emma: Time to get a new keyboard
I guess the iPad is here just in time;)