This is the first of a (long) series of posts that discusses my experiences with a boy we’ll call “Kevin.” Kevin has autism, and I’ve given him an iPhone loaded with some of the apps that I’ve reviewed on this site. His parents have agreed to let me come over on occasion and work with him on these apps to see how he grows, learns, reacts, and likes the iPhone. His parents have also agreed to work on the device with him between sessions, and then tell me how he did. Last night, I had my first session with Kevin, and it was very interesting – you’ll want to hear all about it, I’m sure.
The above puzzle is the one that I saw Kevin complete – without looking at the box
The night started off with something I found to be unbeleivable: Kevin’s ability to put together puzzles. Just recently, Kevin was equipped with only one or two puzzles that he could put together. His dad noticed that Kevin was able to put an entire puzzle together extremely quickly, so he bought him eight new puzzles, 300 pieces each. When Kevin received these puzzles, the first thing he did was to take all 2,400 pieces (8 puzzles x 300 pieces each) and put them into a single pile. Yes, one single pile! His parents knew immediately that they would have to throw all of the pieces away, since there was no way to separate them all back into their respective boxes. They told Kevin that he would need to keep all of the pieces separate the next time they got him new puzzles. Once Kevin understood this concept, he proceeded to take the pile of 2,400 puzzle pieces and separate them all back into their respective groups. I couldn’t do that in six months, and he did it in a couple of hours.
At first, I assumed that this story was an exaggeration – that the pieces weren’t thoroughly mixed and instead were layered in such a way that they could be put back easily. (I was trying to come to terms with Kevin’s awesome skill.) I became less skeptical when I saw Kevin complete one of the 300 piece puzzles in around ten minutes. Please note that half of the ten minutes he spent putting the puzzle together, he was spacing out or not actively working on the puzzle. It was amazingly fast.
That’s why I’m excited that Kevin will try out the Shape Builder app before our next session – I have a feeling he’ll love it.
After the puzzle escapade, I sat down with Kevin to work on the iPhone. He had never before used an iPhone, iTouch, iPad, or any device of this sort. I showed him that the home button would bring up the main screen, and then I showed him how to swipe it to unlock the iPhone. Furthermore, I pointed out that he could turn off and lock the device using the small rectangular button at the top of the phone. (Kevin is often not verbal, or if he is, he’s hard to understand, so he needed to show me that he knew what was going on by doing the actions himself.) Soon, he was unlocking the phone by himself and putting it to sleep when he didn’t want to use it anymore. He caught on to the technology surprisingly fast.
I learned something important from my first session with Kevin – he doesn’t work very well with clutter, whether it be virtually or otherwise. When we were initially looking at the home screen, it was full of apps reviewed on this site and designed to be autism-friendly. The problem was, Kevin didn’t know where to start. (Before I left, I put all of the apps except four into a folder on a separate page, so he wouldn’t feel overwhelmed.)
Some of the apps that Kevin tried out included LetterTracer, A Bee Sees, Tap To Talk, and others – but the one that I want to talk about here is his experience with the Tap to Talk application. As I said earlier, Kevin is not very verbal, and it’s extremely rare to hear him say an entire sentence. When he opened Tap to Talk, he first tapped the Toilet icon, which says, “I have to go to the bathroom” out loud. After the application said this phrase, Kevin repeated it. We all looked at him in excited disbelief – he’s not one of the kids who frequently repeats instructions from people or conversations that he overhears, he sticks to basic words and strings a couple of them together. Of course, Kevin went back and journeyed into the “food” section and proceeded to make the application say, “I want to eat a (insert food here.)” and repeated the phrase. This successful interaction was very encouraging!
I have a good feeling about Kevin and his new iPhone, but you’ll need to subscribe to keep up with his development – I’ll post as soon as we have another session together.
In addition, if you buy any of the apps I review on this website by clicking through to iTunes (via the big black button I put next to the app name in each post), proceeds are donated to the Organization for Autism Research. Thanks, and enjoy!