Wait, no it wasn’t.
It was about kids with special needs, primarily nonverbal, who can use the iPads to communicate and for other educational purposes.
No, no. That’s not quite right either.
Ok, for real this time. It was called “Apps for Autism”. And, frankly, that pitch had me annoyed before Lesley Stahl even began her introduction.
Don’t get me wrong—I’ve got nothing but love for children with autism, and their families. I’m sure that many of you reading this right now are a part of the autism community. However, I think that “autism” also has a magical buzzword factor that “special needs” is lacking. I would have greatly preferred a piece about “Apps for Special Needs” or how about just “Apps for Communication”? “Apps for Special Education”? “Apps for Communication, Motivation, Special Education, and then a Celebration”? I mean, I’m just spitballing here, but if I could come up with those gems in less than a minute, I bet the good folks at CBS could have pitched a more inclusive, although possibly less buzzworthy, story. It would have been appreciated by the throngs of parents, like myself, who have similarly adorable, nonverbal kids that don’t fall on the spectrum.
So, that was annoyance #1. Number 1? Oh yes, there are more.
The first segment showed a young man named Josh (27 years old) using the app Proloquo2Go (P2G) on an iPad to answer Lesley Stahl’s interview questions. (This is the app that we have for Maya, by the way, although she’s a bit too young to fully use it—it was pretty cool to see an adult move through it so quickly.) P2G provided Josh with a voice—he could order food at a restaurant, he could answer interview questions, he could talk to his family.
What a fantastic gift. Seriously.
But the annoyance #2 actually came right before the scene in which Josh was using the iPad. The camera focused on Josh’s hand, pointing at letters on a laminated sheet of paper, and the voice over implied in the pre-iPad days, Josh’s only way to have a conversation was to spell out his thoughts, one letter at a time. Lesley then says “For the past year Josh has been using an Apple iPad as his voice.”
Are we to believe that for 26 years, Josh has used only a (poorly) laminated paper keyboard, and then one day he got an iPad and it changed everything?
I damn well hope not.
If so, I am irate on his behalf. I really, really hope that he was able to use PECs, or a ProgressiveCommunicator or a TextSpeak generator ---- clearly, he can spell, and these devices are all cheaper than the iPad. Please, tell me he had something. Even just a typewriter.
On the flip side, if he did have a device before the iPad (and I do believe he did---did you notice that the laminated paper was in QWERTY format? This kind of implies keyboard use), then I ask----What’s the deal, 60 Minutes? This seems like mighty questionable reporting. I get it---you’re selling the iPad as "The Solution" (this segment directly followed a large piece on Steve Jobs, by the way). But it seems like you’re heavily lying by omission, to say Josh had to fingerspell or act out his thoughts . . . until THE IPAD came to the rescue . . . when really, many of us who have nonverbal kids are raising an eyebrow and thinking “Really? How can that be?”
Maya has an iPad, and I love it. I look at it and I see potential—new apps roll out, and we can buy them and try them and see what works. However, when she’s fully ready to use an AAC device, I want her to have a true communication device (like this one, from Dynavox). Why? Well, those devices are created by speech and linguistics people, fully mapped out and set up for grammar and communication (and really, I’m just repeating what my AT consultant told me. I don’t know much about that stuff yet, because the time has not come for us).
Mark my words, I am not an iPad hater. I think the iPad has a place in education and in communication. I think that nonverbal children should have early access to an array of items (from PECs to the devices that I mentioned above to iPads) so that their caregivers can find the best way to give each child a voice. I am very, very grateful for our iPad. But the way this piece touted the iPad as the tool for communication, counting, motivation, etc, was a little off-putting. It seemed less like journalism, and more like a commercial.
At the same time, I’m glad it ran. I hope that the segment was able to show a large audience that nonverbal people are much, much smarter than meets the eye. I watched that little boy show off his huge receptive vocabulary and love of opera and I couldn’t help but tear up and think of Maya. It’s easy for us to know how smart our kids* are, and I like that technology will make it easier for them to show off their skills as they encounter new people.
*our kids = kids who struggle to express themselves in conversation, regardless of diagnosis