Another awareness month is upon us as April gets dubbed Autism Awareness Month. According to the Autism Society website this month is aimed at “ensuring acceptance and inclusion in schools and communities that results in true appreciation of the unique aspects of all people. We want to get one step closer to a society where those with ASDs are truly valued for their unique talents and gifts.” The Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes that 1 in 68 U.S. children are affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Though the campaign is aimed at individuals with ASDs, the technology and apps being developed have a much wider reach outside of the spectrum.
In celebration of this campaign, Apple has created a couple of videos that focus on one story about Dillan, who is unable to speak, and uses an iPad to communicate with those around him.
It’s worth noting that the outward appearance of Dillan, and many like him, seems aloof, sporadic and disconnected with the world around him. Using his iPad and Proloquo4Text, a text‑based AAC (Augmentative Alternative Communication) app, Dillan’s intellect comes alive. He’s able to share his thoughts and feelings in a way that is otherwise locked away behind a body not fit for the mind inhabiting it.
Apple has created a featured page recognizing Autism Acceptance Month highlighting some of the other autism related apps, podcasts, and iBooks in the App Store. It is the development of such tools that gives Dillan and millions of others with visual, physical, and speech disabilities a voice in the “real world” — it gives people a way to break down prejudices when we mistakenly “judge a book by its cover”.
The efforts stretch far beyond Apple. In December, Apple, Microsoft, and others partnered with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation on their “Just Say Hi” campaign designed to spark conversations with people with disabilities. These efforts serve as a reminder that there is more to any one person than meets the eye. We all communicate in unique ways and it’s up to us to help and understand those who do things differently.