There’s little doubt that technologies like the iPad are changing people’s lives within the intellectual and developmental disabilities community.
In fact, I bet most of you reading this probably have a basic knowledge of augmentative and assistive communications apps that are creating new hopes and dreams.
Faster than most people ever imagined AAC apps are helping kids express themselves, some for the very first time in their lives.
Parents of non-verbal kids like me – I have two children with cerebral palsy – are excited about all of the seemingly endless possibilities.
Imagine having a nine-year-old whom you’ve never heard talk. I don’t have to, it’s my reality.
Imagine having a two-year-old who can only make vowel sounds. Also my reality.
I’m pumped about the prospect of not having to constantly guess what my children want, especially my oldest daughter.
I’m eager to not always go to the same things that have always worked for her happiness (music, Incredibles, Monsters Versus Aliens, books on tape if she can tolerate the narrator).
But does the ability for my children and I to communicate have a greater impact outside of my family’s tiny world?
Yes. This kind of technology makes the future brighter outside my world for the following reasons.
As the father of two children in wheelchairs, I’ve seen how speech and language are one disability society has the most trouble coping with.
I’ve witnessed this firsthand with both girls. Their silence is a game-changer in public settings.
I’ve also witnessed how easy it is to mistakenly perceive people who have severe communication disabilities (or none) as also having impaired intelligence. With my daughters, I can emphatically say they each have their own aptitude and intelligence.
I’ve also seen a natural tendency for people to respond to the language pattern of people with disabilities with an over-simplification of their own speech. Embarrassingly, I've done this. Eventually I became self-aware, and now avoid it.
Many times, people have talked to my children at a much younger “voice and language” than is age-appropriate for them. Over time, I’ve learned the skills to politely help them talk to my kids at a more adult level.
Most importantly, individuals who have problems expressing themselves, unless they are also hearing impaired, generally have no problem understanding normal, complex language.
Imagine when your nine-year-old daughter, for the very first time, tells you how stupid you’ve been for talking to her in ways that may have made her angry or sad. I’ve probably also done this, completely unaware.
But I’m waiting for this day. I’m waiting with all of the bad and good that can come with self-expression – even hopeful for it. I’m hopeful within my family’s world. And, I’m even hopeful for our great, wide world, too.
This game-changing technology has the potential to change how everyone views kids within the IDD community, reason enough for all of us to be hopeful.