Two months ago, the AFCCA Foundation for Children Board of Directors was made aware of a valley teacher attempting to raise funds so that he could purchase iPads for the 4 classrooms for children on the Autism Spectrum at his school, Palm Lane Elementary. The goal of our Foundation is to help all school aged children remain healthy and happy, so once we heard what iPads can do to help kids with autism, it became clear that we needed to help out. We approved $5000 of funds raised to purchase as many iPads as we could for these classrooms.
For those who are not as familiar with autism, one of the symptoms of autism is verbal and nonverbal communication problems. While the gamut runs from mild to severe, individuals with autism have a difficult time expressing their feelings, forming words, and communicating in general. A traditional approach to help break the communication barrier was for therapists or caregivers to use hand-laminated picture cards, which did not work well outside of that circle. Equipment was also developed to assist an autistic child in communicating, but was only beneficial at therapy because the equipment was bulky, heavy and expensive.
The iPad revolutionized and unlocked the communication barrier for children on the spectrum. The iPad gives a voice to the voiceless. The iPad apps for autism are easy-to-use, and allow for children to put words and symbols together and eventually create sentences using images.Ann Kaiser, a researcher from Vanderbilt Peabody College, found that [Children with autism who are minimally verbal can learn why and how we communicate.] “For some parents, it was the first time they’d been able to converse with their child,” said Kaiser. It’s evident that families, with children on the spectrum, with an iPad or tablet are greatly benefiting from it.
For a school with four classrooms of 16 autistic kids in each class, these iPads will be so helpful in the further development.
Principal Deby Valadez enthusiastically welcomed Executive Director Heather Long and Foundation Treasurer Steve Handley to Palm Lane Elementary on Friday, November 13. Together the three visited each of the four classrooms to announce to the children that they are receiving iPads to use.
Mrs. Valadez stated “We are all so grateful to your Foundation. You just witnessed the reactions of the children in the classroom when we told them they will have access to these iPads. Their eyes lit up and they are beyond thrilled! These iPads are amazing communication and learning tools that will open great opportunities and further the potential growth of each student. I am so excited that we can now offer this!”
Deby also let us know that the school’s speech therapist, Kevin Mitchell, is chomping at the bit to open up and load all the iPads. “He is eager to begin using these tools to help communicate with each student.”
The smiles from the students as we presented the iPads in each classroom was infectious. They wanted to open them immediately, and of course take them home. Steve and Heather could tell that these iPads will be given a great home and be extremely helpful. One teacher said “These kids LOVE technology. The first thing one student said to me the first time I met him was ‘My dad’s first computer was an 8-bit Commodore 64 Home PC.”
So thank you to everyone who has helped raised funds or donated this year so that we were able to help out these wonderful children in Phoenix. We are hoping we can do this again in the future in other school districts throughout Arizona, and with your help we can.
You can donate to the AFCCA Foundation for Children online or by mailing donations to 2473 S. Higley Rd, Suite 104, PMB 309, Gilbert, AZ 85295.