Made of Gray

Caleigh's Communication Part 4 - iPad

Holly D Gray16 Comments
Last week Caleigh tried the iPad at our OT clinic using the Kindergarten.com apps. These were free in the month of April. So earlier this month I downloaded a few of them that I thought Caleigh could use for my iPhone. I've been showing Caleigh the flash cards and basically showing her things she had never seen before. An example would be a saxophone. Nope, we don't have one laying around the house.
ipadkindergartenapp
As soon as we put the iPad in front of her she was swiping pages and showing us that she is quite the smart cookie. Caleigh's used to playing on the iPhone, but she really took to the larger screen. The sensitivity of the touch screen was nice and we started using 3-4 options on the screen instead of the one option flash card. A pleasant woman's voice asks Caleigh to show her the saxophone. She did it. Reached all the way across mid-line with her right hand and tapped away. We didn't keep count during the little iPad session, but we estimate that we showed Caleigh 40ish choice pages and she chose incorrectly 5-8 times. Caleigh's been paying attention. A lot. So incredibly smart.

I got excited. REALLY excited.

I made a call to our DARS lady (vision services) and asked about funding an iPad for Caleigh. We've been talking off and on about a communication device for probably 2 months now. She was just waiting on me to call with the device we chose. She said that they probably could help us out. So she scheduled a visit at our house, our OT came out and did an amazing job of selling the product for Caleigh's use. Afterall, we're talking about $800-$1000 here. If we can have help with that, it would be amazing.

As soon as our OT left, the DARS lady gave me the "well here's the bad news." "It's technology and we can't help pay for that." "There are resources through school, when Caleigh starts, the school would have to pay for one."

Yeah, Right.

I was really disappointed in the entire visit. Angry actually. She should have walked into our house and told us up front instead of waiting for the sells pitch to be over. What a waste of a therapy session. Plus she's known about us wanting a communication device of some sort for months now. She could have made the call then. Ugh.

I felt like this lady, who actually happens to be blind herself, was sitting there telling me that Caleigh wouldn't be able to communicate. I felt like a 5 year old, throwing a fit because my parents told me NO. Nobody tells me no as far as Caleigh goes. If she needs something, she gets it. Who cares if they aren't going to pay for it, who cares if we have to pay for it. Caleigh can express so much through a device like this. Who cares.

So after I picked myself up off the floor, kicking and screaming of course. I decided that we would go and get Caleigh her very own iPad.

A few hours later I felt entirely guilty for what seems like rushing into a decision. Although it really wasn't. I've been researching devices for Caleigh's communication for months now. We've tried 6. I've done my homework. If this was a special needs device that was within monetary reach I wouldn't question myself one bit. The fact that the iPad is some cultural phenomenon is what makes it feel wrong. Buying the iPad makes me feel like I just went out and bought my 16 year old a brand new BMW. It feels wrong, but it's not. The reasons for purchasing the ipad have nothing to do with the phenomenon.

With everything we know about other devices; here's a list of why I think the iPad is the best choice for Caleigh right now.

-Portability. This won me over. The other devices are too bulky & heavy and with Caleigh not sitting in a wheelchair all day the only choice was something we can carry around with ease. I have to carry it...along with my 30 pound daughter. I got a little taste of this with the PRC device that we had on loan. It makes carrying Caleigh even harder. The only option I was given was a wheelchair mount.
ipadvsiphone
-Apps. The educational possibilities are endless. Fine motor skills, books, movies, music. Communication with the app Proloquo2Go is the big seller. I'm loving the customization. I had already downloaded the manual and read through it 3 times. OCD...yes. You can watch a video about it here.

-Lack of fight. Yep, I'm throwing in the towel. Caleigh turns 3 in August and I don't want her voice to wait until then. In Texas the school district is required to buy a communication device, but it takes time...tons of time and meetings. I'm pretty sure they would laugh at me if I told them we wanted the iPad for Caleigh. When it comes to patience and waiting for essential things for Caleigh, I just don't have it lately. There's that 5 year old again....I want it for her and I want it now.

-Cost. We could buy a new iPad + accessories once a year for the $1100 cost of extending the yearly warranty on other devices. Insurance/Medicaid pays for a device once every 5 years and not a minute before. The warranty isn't covered. The overall cost to us would be cheaper in the long run to outright buy an iPad with the $99 two year apple care.

-Age. Caleigh is almost 3 years old. It's a fairly new practice to give kids like Caleigh a high tech communication device. In the past you just waited it out and used photos and objects. There are tons of 3 year olds out there with delayed speech. Caleigh's not the only one not talking yet. She could wake up on her 4th birthday talking up a storm. We still have great hope that Caleigh will one day talk to us with her own voice. I think the iPad is a good starting point for the just in case she does scenario.

-Time. This goes with my lack of fight. Drive to the apple store and pick one up. Get home and download Proloquo2Go and your set. No months of waiting. No forms to fill out. No qualifications. No rental agreements. No approvals. No representatives. It's done and ready to go in 1 day.

So we made our decision. An iPad it is. For now.

After my 5 year old self made a validating phone call to Caleigh's Mimi; it was decided that we would meet at the Apple store the next day. Although I'm pretty sure Mimi has a soft spot for her Caleigh and it was no question whether she needed an iPad or not.

We showed up, purchased, came home and downloaded the app Proloquo2Go. By the next day Caleigh was flying through the first set I made her.

Here's the choice that she made in the above video:
Each day she has gotten better and better. You can tell in the video that I have been holding her arm up at the elbow. This helps with Caleigh's endurance. I also let her do it on her own. With her movements it kinda looks like I'm moving her arm. Nope, not the case. All our girl.

I'm still dreaming up a keyguard though. Anyone out there know how to develop, sell and distribute a plastic product? I've got the plans in my head.......

I've been adding new buttons each day. Caleigh smiles when she tells us something and she still gets excited when I bring out the pad. We started doing pretend play recently so I am trying to incorporate that into the device as well. I've added feelings and yes/no, hi/bye, all new to Caleigh's choices. She's picked up on them perfectly.

Let me say that I really like the PRC language system, Unity. I like the fact that each button has it's place and that is where it stays. After working with the Proloquo2go system, I can understand how setting up pages could get confusing. I'm still keeping an open mind. As Caleigh's fine motor skills develop, and so does PRC, we may be able to transition to a PRC device at a later time.

As far as the DynaVox goes, well, the iPad blows it out of the water as far as I'm concerned.

I'm excited about our decision. I think it will take Caleigh to the next level.

Our intelligent, bright & brilliant girl. We'll just have to see what the future holds.

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