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Zach's a Mac

We got Zachary an iPad.

At first, this statement, to some, may seems like a rash, expensive purchase of a trendy, fashionable gadget and a ridiculous one at that for a child who is 3 1/2. I could understand how some may take that interpretation.

But I care not.

Because Zach's a Mac, and he's using his apps to educate and communicate.

I'll admit plainly that I bashed the idea of the iPad when it was announced. I have a laptop, I have an iPod, why would anyone need an iPad? Lame. Stupid. Another silly gadget.

About 8 weeks ago, a tech-savvy, gear-crazed friend of mine came over for dinner and brought his brand new iPad (he may have stood in line for hours to be one of the first in Colorado to own one). He extolled the virtues of this fine new piece of gadgetry and how his life was very much improved because of it. I didn't buy into it. Still wasn't enticing for me. Looked cool, but so what?

Then, he quickly downloaded a free "painting/drawing" app and handed the iPad over to Zachary. After careful consideration of what this new "toy" was, he started moving his fingers over the screen, lighting up in excitement when he saw the correlation between action and reaction. He was drawing by using only his fingers as the paintbrush and it made a "swish-swish" sound when he did it. Zach was hooked. And this was only a "play" app with painting. Not even something educational. Renee and I became intrigued. Could it be that our 3-year-old son with Cerebral Palsy and very difficult control over his finger and arm movement could manipulate and control a computer? An iPad?

Yes. It's because Zach's a Mac.

Around this time, our traditional therapists were urging us to get a communication device. OK, what will that take? Well, the one they recommended was PC-based, cost about $10,000, will take you about 6-months to get it, when it comes it's the size of an old 17" vacuum tube-powered television set, and the only capabilities it has is strictly communication device. Sounds like fun, versatile, and easily transportable! Yea! 

Somewhere along the lines, maybe it was an internet story or a newsletter or a listserv comment, someone mentioned there was a communication app and they were using it on an iTouch for their older kids to communicate. Research began on my part and I found the app was also available for the iPad. It's called Proloquo2Go. It's website says the app "provides a full-featured communication solution for people who have difficulty speaking. It brings natural sounding text-to-speech voices, up-to-date symbols, powerful automatic conjugations, a default vocabulary of over 7000 items, full expandability and extreme ease of use". The communication app cost about $179 to download; kind of expensive comparatively speaking to other apps, but... let's see...

Lowest model iPad - $500. Communication app - $179. Ability to download multiple apps for educational purposes, interactive books, and learning games. Availability - immediate.


Therapist-recommended PC-based communication device - $10,000. Ability to download viruses. Availability - 6 months+

Hmmm... maybe the iPad wasn't so stupid after all.

Renee and I talked about it and decided it would be a good purchase for Zachary. It wasn't until we actually got to the Apple store to get more information that we were completely sold hook, line and sinker on it.

The store model had a PBS-cartoon based educational game app called "Super Why". Zach loves watching "Super Why"; it's a cartoon about reading, stories, characters, letters, words, and rhyming. Zach started playing with the app and the on-screen character of one of the three little pigs asked Zach to spell a word by finding the letters one at a time. He'd ask, "Let's spell the word KEYS. Find the letter K." Three choices of letters spread across the screen. Zach immediately chose K. Then the pig asked "Find the letter E." Boom. Zach picked E. And onward for 100% accuracy. He continued playing and LOVED it!

Done. Sold. Zach's a Mac.

After having it now for a few weeks, we've managed to download dozens of free educational apps that help Zachary learn and show us he knows what he's learning.

He knows his entire alphabet. He knows all his numbers. He knows his animals, shapes and colors. And now he's starting to mimic the sounds of animals (he'll chose a Bee in one of his animal apps and make the "Buzzzzz" noise. He's never been able to make animal noises before).

We also downloaded the communication app and are working on it with him. It can be complicated and multi-dimensional, but just yesterday, he selected this app and hit "I want" "something" "something to eat" "fruit" ... he then hit every fruit button on there, to which I told him all we had was strawberries in the house. I helped him scroll down to strawberries and had him push it. "Strawberries" it said. I took his hand up to the top to tap it and the device said "I want something to eat, strawberries." I gave him one right away.

While he may have just "accidentally" gotten to this app and hit buttons at random, he's been exploring it lately, checking out all the things the different buttons say. So anytime he does access though, I will listen and do my best to show him he can use it to communicate. It'll be a learning process and he'll need time to poke around and explore all the buttons to know them all. He may not be using it "purposefully" quite yet, but he'll get there. We're working on it with him.

Zach absolutely LOVES his iPad. He knows what it's called; he can navigate through it and select apps, going in and out of them. Just the other night, he was able to turn it on and unlock it all by himself!

For us, anything that will benefit Zach in any way - therapy, educational, health, etc - is what we as parents want for him. We all want the best for our children. He's truly impressed me with his skills at this sleek, cool computer tablet. One of our therapists even recently commented they believe Zachary (although still non-verbal) is at his age-appropriate cognitive level!

Zach's a Mac. And we're proud of that.

We're looking forward to his continued progress developmentally and if the iPad with all it's cool downloadable educational apps can help him in that regard, we are excited to watch.

I do realize there are many negative viewpoints when it comes to getting a child involved with computers at a young age. Well, Zachary's different. He has special needs. He cannot talk, cannot sit on his own, cannot walk, cannot run, cannot play like typical kids. As parents, we work with Zach and play with Zach every day, hands-on, more involved physically than parents of typical children who have the abilities to run around, play, and be part-way independent. Naysayers of the iPad and children can take a walk, because it's useful to Zach, useful to his learning, and useful to his overall development. He can show us how smart he is. He can use it to talk and communicate to us. And that is absolutely invaluable. No critic will ever affect that fact.

Critics are PCs. Zach's a Mac.


Sarah Nichol wrote 7 years 38 weeks ago

Yeah Zach!

Just reading this now and wow!  it brought tears to my eyes too! 

I went to a seminar held locally a couple of months ago where they talked about how one of the local school boards has bought and distributed iTouch's to students who were identified as deriving potential benefit from them.  The study involved students with different special needs, including ASD and CP.  At the seminar, they showed us videos of the kids using many different apps on their devices in different situations: it was absolutely amazing the differences that it could make!  And to think:  this wasn't even the intended use from Mac!

My son uses an augmentative communication device:  heavy and certainly not portable by him, but it has definitely opened up a whole new world for him!  Our speech therapist is totally on-board to try out an iPhone (if he can manipulate one that small) or an iPad and is trying to get someone to donate an iPad to the clinic so they can "try it out" and start recommending it. 


Camilla Downs's picture
Camilla Downs wrote 7 years 38 weeks ago

Lillian's a Mac, too!

Doesn't sound as cool as Zach's a Mac, though!  My 8 yr old daughter, Lillian, has been using an iPhone with the Proloquo2Go App on it since about last October.  She has a chromosome abnormality called 18p- which manifest mainly in that she's speech impaired.

I'm so darn happy for you and your family that you came across this! Beautiful!

Life changing is the way I describe this app to people.  It is my opinion that the world has shifted in such a way to include the speech impaired like never before.  With the combination of technology and social networking, the community that the speech impaired can communicate with and conduct business with has grown exponentially and this has opened doors for them to be entrepreneurs if that is a path they can and want to travel.  Technology and social networking sites have absolutely improved quality of life for my daughter and those like her!

Definitley a Mac fan and definitley a Proloquo2Go evangelist! YAY for Zach!!!!!

Janine Paetkau ... wrote 7 years 39 weeks ago


I never would have though of using new technology as a tool for my little man to communicate and play with. Our speech therapist has brought over many "communication tools" such as the Big Mac and some easy computer games but they all seem VERY outdated and defiantly not very portable or easy to use. 

I am so glad to hear that Zach is using it and loving it. It gives my hope that our little guy will be able to do the same!

Nathan Charlan wrote 7 years 39 weeks ago

Absolutely Janine! Technology

Absolutely Janine! Technology is there for our kiddos to utilize to make them able to express themselves and become more independent. This new device is such a handy tool and at such a fraction of the cost of other "conventional" communication devices, such as the ones we were recommended through our traditional therapies. Even on the simplest things, we've done what we could to communicate with Zach, giving him choices with our hands. We would tell him to choose between the right hand (choice #1) or left hand (choice #2). He would understand and reach out for what he wanted (we would move our hands like you were "talking" with them for each choice so he knew precisely what hand was what choice. This allowed him "independence" in choosing - could be what to have for a meal, what DVD to watch, what toy to play with or what book to read. Now with the actual communication device, his world has opened up even more. Looking forward to hearing about your journey with communication too!

Susan Lewis Stephens's picture
Susan Lewis Stephens wrote 7 years 39 weeks ago

Zach's a Mac indeed!

This literally brought tears to my eyes.  Anyone who meets Zach immediatly falls for that big smile and the enthusiasm he gives to everything.

To now know as parents that you can communicate with him.. hear his words.. while not all his own voice.. and for him to, on his level, to begin to realize that hey.. I can let mommie and dada know what I want is huge for both of you...  One day soon I just know he'll select that app out of the blue and select.. I love you.. and give you a big smile.. and what a day that will be for you all.

I know that you guys have always beleived and hoped for that day that he could communicate back to you.. with the Ipad it's just sooner than later and very real.

As you will learn though... it's very typical for parents to want their child to learn to talk.. trust me.. one day he'll become such a chatter "mac" that you'll find yourself thinking... man he wants to talk all the time.. can we take a break.. lol  He's 3.. perfect age for the 30 questions ... about everything.. lots of fun in store for you guys.

I'm really happy and excited for what the days ahead hold for your family!




Nathan Charlan wrote 7 years 39 weeks ago

Thanks Susan! It's really

Thanks Susan! It's really kind of neat, because I spoke with my own mom (Zachary's nana) yesterday, and she said you mentioned all her sentiments in your comment too. Very neat how universally, nanas think/feel alike too!

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