The internet is abuzz. Steve Jobs may have never thought he would change the lives of thousands of autistic kids, but he has. His devices give voices to many bright, non-verbal kids with Autism, through apps like Proloquo2go and many others. Parents have been astounded to find that many of their non verbal kids are able to speak eloquently, in full sentences, with proper verb tenses, and correctly using figure of speeches, when given an electronic voice, and those who don’t can learn. Don’t believe it? Search #autism into Twitter and I guarantee in less that 5 minutes you find a link to some article about how the i-revolution has helped to improve communication for children with autism.
I have a permanent search for tweets with #autism, and that’s how I found Melissa’s site: The Puzzling Piece. She makes pretty jewelry to promote Autism awareness and support autism charities, and she has this amazing promotion. If I sell 60 necklaces or key-chains she’ll send me an iPad for Elijah, free. So I emailed her today, I wondered am I even eligible as a Canadian? Well, that woman must have an iPhone because I got a reply in minutes. Yes, I could take part, she said. So then I had to think, do I know 60 people who would buy, so we could get an iPad for Eli? I don’t know? But that’s where you come in, you tell me. I’m giving it a shot.
I know, I know what some of you may be thinking. Elijah is verbal, aren’t you just being greedy? What does he need one of these for. Allow me to tell you why we think an iPad could help Elijah, even though he talks.
Elijah didn’t start really talking until he was three. He has come a long way with biomedical intervention and therapy. He has worked hard, and we are fortunate to be a family with a verbal kid on the spectrum. He still has a lot of catching up to do, but he amazes Kyle and I all the time with the huge progresses he makes. Currently Elijah works with Kathy-Jo Simmie, a spectacular speech therapist here in Saskatoon. Speech therapy isn’t covered, so we pay for it out of pocket. It is expensive, but so worth it. He loves Kathy Jo,and he works there on pronouncing the letters he has trouble pronouncing, r,s,ch, and l mostly, he works on modulation (that kid has one volume: LOUD and one speed: fast), eye contact, and social interactions such as turn taking, how to have a back and forth conversation etc. etc. It’s wonderful, but we only go twice a month. The iPad has an app for that. There is a speech therapy application that can help with pronunciation, pitch, speaking speed, and modulation. Kyle and I work with him all the time, but plunk that kid in front of a screen and you have his undivided attention. I think the iPad can help with speech therapy and to help stretch our dollar.
Some of you know Elijah, so it goes without saying that he isn’t always the most easy going. If we make a change of plans or take him somewhere where he’s never been, he doesn’t always know how to deal with it. Often that means melt downs, tantrums, inappropriate behavior, and that famous high pitched, awful scream he has. One of the ways we help with new situations (and old ones where that are difficult) is to write a social story for him. Essentially, a social story is a “this is what’s going to happen and this is how you behave” type of story. We personalize it to him using pictures from the internet and we write Elijah’s story. Then we print it out and laminate it. We pull out the stories we need when we need them. Here is an example of a social story for Going to Art Class. It would be magic to have all those lovely stories tucked away in an iPad so that we could “pull” out the ones we need at any given moment. Elijah’s and my stress would be greatly reduced when I have to to make an unexpected stop at the grocery store. He could read “What I can Do When Plans Change” on the way and “Grocery Shopping” in the cart. There’s an app for this!
In Occupational therapy, Eli is the obstacle course star. That kid can climb/swing from/wiggle through anything. Elijah may be super at gross motor skills, but his fine motor skills, particularly handwriting, is bad (even for a boy:)) Getting him to sit and practice printing goes one of two ways, he endures it reluctantly to get to the next task, or he refuses, by throwing his pencil, writhing on the floor, or hyperventilating. But, put a touch screen in front of him and he will trace paths or letters with his fingers willingly, without knowing that he’s working on a problem area. We know this from the little tracing some of his DS games require, and from a couple of games on Kyle’s iPhone. The iPad’s larger screen means that he can start tracing big images that continually get smaller as his skill progresses. And yup, you guessed it, there’s an app for that!
There are also apps aplenty that will help with our homeschooling curriculum, math, social, reading, etc, and there are also apps that help kids, like Eli, who don’t understand social norms. Like: where we need to keep our voices down, why we need to look at someone when we talk to them, how to say hello and goodbye, how to ask other kids to play, and how to politely tell other kids when he needs some space to be alone. Elijah has learned thousands of things from Kyle and I and his sisters, and we continue to find real world ways to teach, and interact with him. I think that balance is crucial, but I also know that when Elijah figures it out for himself the lesson is more lasting than when I drill it in a million times. He practically taught himself to read from Starfall, Key Skills and PBS kids games. Oh sure, I work with him at the kitchen table, but he is far beyond Petra’s reading level, and that is a testament to his brightness, and his own quest to learn at his own speed on the computer.
All of that being said let’s not overlook the obvious entertainment factor. Because it’s full colour, and has a large screen it makes the perfect picture book e-reader, we can download Lego building instructions and he can independently play for hours (he loves Lego), he can watch movies, and play games on it, perfect for when the line up at the store is too long for him to endure. One iPad in the house means learning how to share, and take turns with his sisters (I’m not sure if there’s a app for that).
These are the reasons I can think of to impress upon you why an iPad could be beneficial, even to our verbal guy. I’m sure I’ll think of more later but these are the big ones.
So here’s where you come in. You knew I had to be getting to this from the title, and that fact that I told you if I sell 60 of these:
From the website: NECKLACE This unique handmade, one of a kind puzzle piece is made from diachronic glass and measures 1 1/2 x 1 x 1/4". It comes on a 16" or 18" rubber cord, attached by a lobster clasp. All necklaces arrive individually packaged in a powder blue gift pouch. This necklace was made with lots of love and passion. My wish is that you enjoy wearing it as much as I enjoyed creating it.
From the website: KEY CHAIN Made of alloy and weighing 1.8 oz., this double barrel clasp key chain is worth its weight. It is a sophisticated key chain that does not require words to communicate its cause. For all the men who love a child with autism this one is for you.
We get an iPad for free.
If neither of these are your particular style or taste, but you would like to help, you can purchase a necklace or key-chain and I (you) will donate any unwanted jewelry to Autism services in Saskatoon where they will either give them to Moms or Dads who would love something like this, or sell it as a silent auction piece. You can indicate if you want to give it away, or have it auctioned if you’d like. Or you can keep it and give it away as a gift to someone you know. 1 in 110 children are affected by autism and that means you likely know another family with someone on the spectrum who would love it. If you run a business the key chain would be perfect for tacking up on a corkboard, or to have displayed as a plant charm to show your customers that you are business that supports autism awareness. Furthermore if you would like to purchase jewelry under your business name, I would be happy to write a small blurb about how your business helped Elijah earn a free iPad that you can put in your blog or newsletter.
Okay, do I seem slimy sales-pitchy? I’ll stop now. I contemplated whether this was worth doing, if asking for this was going to make me seem selfish? greedy? I’m not sure of the word I’m looking for here. I also wondered if I should even bother to see if I could sell 60 of theses, because in April I’m going to campaign for funds for Autism Service’s big Gala in Saskatoon. They have been so good to us, and they deserve generous financial support, and so I will be asking for your money again then. On the plus side, since our kids aren’t in public school you won’t ever have to buy chocolate covered almonds or wrapping paper from me, and this iPad fundraiser benefits our family solely. Ask and ye shall receive they say. If I don’t make 60, I don’t make 60.
Both pieces cost 20 dollars USD each, and are well worth it. If you would like to order one please send me an email, make a comment in the comment box, tell me personally, or send a letter to Erron Anderson, Box 841, Dundurn SK, S0K 1K0. I will collect cheques that you send me and place the order when there are 60, or once it seems that I reached the peak amount of interest to buy if there are fewer. I will absolutely keep you posted here on this blog. I know it’s likely the worst time to be campaigning to get people to spend money, but maybe you have some extra Christmas cash burning a hole in your pocket? And if it’s not in your budget, I get that, it’s okay. If it’s not in your budget, but you would like to help make this happen for us, you can to pay this link forward via email, write your own blog entry or copy this one to your blog, post it to your facebook page, or Twitter account, and I’m grateful.
We are not rich, and we are not poor, but an iPad, though we’ve thought about it, seems a fairly large expense, and so we’ve decided it is too far down the list to think about getting one. I think it’s wonderful that Melissa and The Puzzling Piece are going to make iPads happen for families who will benefit from them, even if we don’t end up being one of them. Kudos to you!!
Editing again to change payment info:
Previously I had to take the order from you, by cheque, paypal or e transfer. Now the easiest way is to purchase directly from The Puzzling Piece! PLEASE don’t forget to add in the notes that you are purchasing for Erron Anderson’s Fundraiser for Elijah Anderson. This way the item is shipped directly to you, not me, and then to you, and we still get credit. For those of you who have already ordered, I’m sorry this option was not available to you at the time.
Here is the letter Melissa sent me on how to order (if you do order will you please comment or send me an email, so I can track our number of orders?):
Hello to all the iPad Challengers-
I have made a decision to try and help you all out. In order for me to do this, I am really going to need you support! Your friends, family and donors can now place their order for the necklace or key chains by going to www.thepuzzlingpiece.com. Many of you have been asking for this to happen so I have conceded! The only way this can work is if your supporters put your full name in the notes at checkout. There is a spot on the pay pal checkout page where they can leave a note. I will have no way to track your sales unless your supporters do this. Please, Please, Please make sure your people do this.
We are proud to announce we have had 4 people complete the challenge. Keep up the hard work and we are really excited to send your children a brand new iPad.
Please have anyone who writes you check to have it written to The Puzzling Piece. Just so you don’t have to ask how many have been sold for you we will send an update on the 15th and the 30th of every month. If there has been no change we will not update. We will update any winners the day the goal is met. Also just remind your supporters the challenge only includes the glass necklace and key chain.
This Challenge has been going so well we just don’t want to waste time! Good luck to everyone.
All the best,
The Puzzling Piece