National Autism Awareness Month

Laura Lance Autism

April is National Autism Awareness Month. In an effort to increase awareness and highlight the unique abilities and stories of individuals at PRIDE, we bring you a special autism blog series.

To kick-off the month and to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day, April 2, we share with you the story of Laurel and Lance, and how assistive technology has changed their world.

Laurel Petersen is a Contract Administrator at PRIDE, the mother of an autistic child, Lance, and a board member of the UC Davis MIND Institute, a collaborative international research center, committed to the awareness, understanding, prevention, care, and cure of neurodevelopmental disorders.

At PRIDE Industries, we employ a variety of assistive devices to support individuals with a wide range of disabilities. Laurel wanted to share with us how a simple smart tablet and apps have changed her son’s life. Here is her story.

How did we ever live without an iPad?

As a mother of an 8-year-old boy with Autism, the iPad quickly became a mainstay in our daily routine. My son, Lance uses his iPad at both school and home. At school, he is able to use specific apps (i.e. math, vocabulary, etc.) to work towards his IEP (Individualized Education Plan-Program) goals. The beauty of this is that most Autistic kid’s love technology and learning is easier when in an electronic format, rather than pencil and paper. In fact, Lance lacks the fine motor skills to be successful in writing, and it has always been a source of frustration for him. With the iPad, he can touch, swipe, or type, which is easier for him. Therefore, it is a win-win for the teacher and student resulting in fewer behaviors and meltdowns!

Probably the biggest benefit of Lance’s iPad is as a communication device. Lance is minimally verbal. Using an app called ProLoQuo2Go ™, he is able to touch pictures to form sentences, which are then spoken by the iPad. This has opened a whole new world for him as he is now able to have his needs and wants addressed simply by requesting items with his iPad.

His iPad also offers an amazing array of other programs to help with the behavioral and cognitive issues that Lances faces. For instance, he has an app called Calm Counter, which includes simple visual and audio cues that talk the user through the process of dealing with feelings of anger and frustration, and offers easy-to-follow instructions on calming down, including counting backwards from 10 and taking deep breaths.

In addition, Lance has various social stories on his iPad that can be customized through an app called Stories 2 Learn ™. This helps him in various situations, such as going to the dentist, doctor, or blood lab. He even has a social story to help him prepare when he has to fly on a plane. His iPad also serves as a visual schedule, which is so important to children with autism, as they often think and learn through visual pictures or cues. He is able to understand simple “first this, then that” scenarios. These social stories and visual schedules are key to eliminating the “gray areas” and allowing him to know what to expect during his day.

Lastly, the iPad serves as an amazing tool for Lance’s teachers, therapists, caregivers, and me. Using an app called Autism Lite ™, the entire team can record on his iPad everything from moods and behaviors, to food choices and health items, such as his daily sleep and potty training statistics. Graphs of the data are automatically created for days, weeks, or months, to track his patterns/progress and can be shared with the whole team via email.

The iPad has undoubtedly changed our life, and it is a blessing to the entire Autism community to live in this era of technology. I cannot imagine life without it!

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