Have iPad — will travel

Bacon is a great motivator.

That’s why there are greasy fingerprints on Philip’s iPad screen that coincide with the motor sequence for the word “eat.”

Philip and I are at the local American Legion post. They host a breakfast the first Sunday of every month. We are joining my friend who helped get the iPad for Philip, her mother and my parents.

After observing how Philip’s speech therapist used his iPad with speech app during the field trip to the aquarium, I felt confident enough to take the device out in public. We had it with us on Saturday when we went to the library, but Philip was more interested in doing the many Dr. Seuss activities than talking about them. I hoped that the presence of one of Philip’s favorite foods would be just the thing to spur him to use the device in a new setting.

When I ask the server for extra bacon, he adds two more strips to my plate and says, “That’s right — you’re sharing with your son.” He’s seen us here over the past few months.

“Nope,” I tell him. “That’s all for him.”

Philip is perched between me and Grandma. I have the iPad set up on the table with the communication app open. After he spots bacon on our plates, Philip takes one final bite of his scrambled eggs and then reaches to my plate to steal get bacon. I block his grasp and prompt him to use the iPad.

He has a few false starts: he selects “play” and gets a toy in response, “sleep” and I pretend to snooze on his shoulder, complete with snores. When he remembers to choose “eat,” like we practiced at home, he receives a piece of bacon in return.

He selects the word "eat" to let us know when he isout of bacon

He selects the word “eat” to let us know when he is out of bacon

Philip continues use the app to let us know when he needs more. I know when he is sated when I stop hearing the recorded voice say “eat.”

That evening, we go to my parents’ for Sunday Supper. I give my mom a quick refresher course on using the iPad and app. Even though she has been watching him on Fridays, we haven’t been sending the iPad with Philip. But on Monday, Grandma will pick up Philip from school. The iPad will be in his backpack. Like me, Grandma is hesitant to use it.

“We talk to each other in our own way,” she said.

“I know. But you understand why I’m asking you to do this?” was my response.

I can relate to her reluctance because I have felt the same things: fear of new technology; concern about messing up the iPad; worry about using the app  the wrong way; desire to encourage verbal speech; comfort from sticking with status quo of communication through gestures and manipulation.

She agrees to give it a try. That is all I can ask.

When I pick Philip up on Monday, Grandma tells me that Philip used his iPad during lunch and when they were coloring.

“I think he said ‘color,’” my mom reports.

“I think I’ve heard him try to say it before,” I say.

At home, I set the iPad on the table while I’m making supper. A hungry Philip has sat at the table after first using his PECS to ask for pretzels. As he munches, Philip experiments with the app’s vocabulary. “Sleep” prompts fake snores from Mommy. “Look” puts us eye-to-eye. “Eat” gets Philip two more pretzels.

When Philip does the sequence for “color” I grab a piece of card stock and markers out of his bin. He touches the screen again, and I hear the recorded voice saying “color” as I set the paper and markers in front of Philip.

After selecting the word "color" Philip repeated the word!

After selecting the word “color” Philip repeated the word!

“Color,” says Philip.

Philip –not the app.

“That’s right!” I exclaim. “You’re coloring!”

“Color,” he repeats.

You understand why I’m asking you to do this?

I’m grateful that my mom gave the iPad a chance. Whether it’s bacon, pretzels, toys or markers, Philip has things to talk about — at home and away.

6 thoughts on “Have iPad — will travel

  1. This is so beautiful:) These are new waters and one by one everyone will test them with Phillip and wow to get an interaction like that….its everything.


  2. My eight year old used PECS as a toddler, and they helped with speech. Eventually he sort of outgrew it. Now that he is in school, we are trying to get him to use more complex speech–not just individual words. The speech pathologist has recommended getting him evaluated for an iPad or similar technology. I’m interested to see what the evaluator recommends and whether it works for us. Your story gives me hope for that…I also recognize the difficulty in getting the grandparents on board…been there!


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