John, a bright, 16 year old boy in grade 10 at Magee Secondary in Vancouver knows only too well the trials and tribulations of using technology. John has a physical disability which causes slow, involuntary movement in his arms. Communicating with his peers and teachers is a challenge. He has been through several years trying different communication devices; some simple, some complex, but none were a good “fit” for John. He needed something he could use quickly, effectively and functionally during the hustle and bustle of a busy high school day. Most were too difficult and tiring for John to access with his limited ability to move.
John was frustrated and it appeared like he had lost hope that he would ever be able to have control over his environment or participate in conversations with his peers. He had gone through two surgeries and the team often wondered if John was experiencing pain but was not able to express it. Belinda, his teacher, noticed that he would tire and give up when faced with having to use his older communication device, but that he was very motivated by the iPad. She met with John’s AAC SLP, Andrea Lynch, and they decided to apply for service from SET-BC.
John received an iPad with the Touch Chat app several months ago. His school team and father attended the training session at SET-BC and within days, began programming the device with language that would help support John’s communication goals. Even though physical access to the device remains difficult, the iPad has a “coolness” and motivating quality.
John’s world has changed. He is no longer tired or sad. He has presented a news article in Current Events and has prepared and practiced for a formal presentation for one of his other classes. Recently, the teacher reported that “John gave his practice presentation this morning to our class. It was amazing. He was very proud”.
When John did give his formal presentation on “Space” to his Science 10 class, it was a complete success. He showed slides to the class while talking with his iPad about each one. At the end, he asked the class if they had any questions. There was not a dry eye in the house. His teacher, Belinda Mackinnon, said “ He is so excited and focused. I have to admit I had to fight back the tears. I think the iPad will be a hit. It will be very easy to achieve the goals we have set. This makes me very happy”. Two Support Workers who saw him and used to work with John, said “Finally – we have our John back!”
The team soon expects John will be able to use his Touch Chat to direct his class in a game and they have plans that he will soon be able to choose and order his lunch by himself from the school cafeteria.
When the teacher was asked about other things they might encourage John to try, she said “This is only the beginning.”