Thank You, Steve Jobs: iPads and Autism


Perhaps it sounds grandiose and over the top but I’ll just say it: I’m not sure our 14-year-old son Charlie would survive adolescence and his teenage years without his iPad. I feel forever grateful to the late Steve Jobs for inventing the iPad, and I was shocked and saddened to hear that he had left us on Wednesday.

Until we placed an iPad in his hands just over a year ago, Charlie had been ambivalent about computers and technology. Charlie is on the severe end of the autism spectrum, with huge challenges in his abilities to speak and communicate, especially when it comes to his academics. He has always loved music and photos and, for 13 years, we guided his fingers to push buttons, tap keyboards, move a computer mouse, in an attempt to teach him to use CD players and a computer whose hard drive I had loaded up with digital photos. Charlie wanted to hear the music and see the pictures, but he always seemed to get stuck knowing which buttons to manipulate. Coordinating his fingers and eyes to operate a computer mouse was a major challenge that Charlie always needed our help for. To hear the music he wanted to hear and see the photos, he was ultimately reliant on someone else and this proved frustrating.

Enter the iPad. I was dubious at first, mindful of the laptops that we’d lost after they were thrown or had their keyboards ripped out. Charlie had had iPods of various generations but (something we have only become aware of recently) he dislikes using headphones. Because he can’t really read, he was unable to choose which songs he’d hear. At least one iPod met a watery fate in a certain household appliance. Then my parents and aunts in California read an article about how much the iPad had helped my friend Shannon’s son Leo and in the mail came a check, followed by an email from my dad: Go buy one for Charlie.

Charlie warms up slowly to new things and first left the iPad to gather dust. I showed him the music and photos and how to type into the search box on the YouTube app — and then, one day we saw him poking, swiping, tapping on the iPad screen with his long fingers. For the first time, here was a device that he could use entirely on his own, to listen to music and see photos. The touch screen, the size of the iPad (1.0 — Charlie is quite content with the original iPad; he never has a care for having “the latest”), the vividness of images on the display, the auditory qualities: All are perfectly suited for him. That is to say, the design of the iPad was exactly what Charlie needed and could independently, naturally figure out how to use.

A boy loves his iPad -  thank you  #RIPstevejobs

Photo by the author

To me, the iPad’s design is the reason so many kids on the autism spectrum have benefited so much from it. Charlie is only interested in the most basic of apps on the iPad and is not interested in games. He dutifully listens to the social stories and picture schedules I create for him using this app and looks at some picture books. He doesn’t use the iPad as an augmentative speech device as some children do, but sometimes the photo Charlie has put on the iPad screen reveals a clue about what he is thinking.

(Plus, the iPad  – encased in an Otterbox case — is quite durable. Besides throwing, Charlie’s has survived partial water immersion.)

The iPad has wound itself into Charlie’s life, helping him navigate periods of anxiety, helping us understand better what he is communicating and giving him endless hours of amusement, principally in the form of all the music I’ve loaded onto the iPad (including the Kinks, the Replacements, a bit of Gregorian chant, Disney songs, Sugarcane Harris, John Coltrane).

Untold thanks to Steve Jobs for all he did — for helping Charlie get through a transitional time of life, no mean feat — and hail and farewell, ave atque vale.


Related Care2 Coverage

Tech Icon Steve Jobs Has Died, Age 56

Imagine a World Without Macs (and iPods and iPads) [VIDEO]

The iPad, the Innovation of the Year for Kids with Disabilities

Photo by the author


Ingrid D.4 years ago

Whilst Charlie might love his Ipad, I hope you have looked up the effects of prolonged use of WiFi on `the brain' and his health! There are so many websites out there, now giving evidence of harmful effects of wireless gadgets that nobody can claim ignorance any longer. Don't believe the media. Do your own research by checking out published`independent' peer reviewed scientific research on the web. You'll be horrified to find that something you thought helps your son, can also make him very ill.Just because everyone's mad keen on the IPad does not mean it's safe!

colleen p.
colleen p.4 years ago

mine was a gift. Ipad is "what it can do for you". i want mine to make me money. but I'm a specail kind of dumb and I want to do more of it myself, if a lot of help helps me make an app, even if it is a dress up or digital sticker or coloring book, I would need to pay upfront, or find way everyone who helped gets paied. I won't get money from super smart teens, or trendy adults. but if someone has to passify a 5 year old, I'm sure it could be done.

I'm just "to dumb to code"
I can draw.

yeah. and I'd want music to play, and have some sound effects to make it not boring.

susan s.
rebecca st clair4 years ago

Also Sandra to say the Chinese government are to blame for Apple & other corporation's sickening greed in outsourcing to poor countries where the people are expoited in appalling conditions and for the mindless consumerism of the western world takes buck passing to a whole new level. Large companies outsource 'cos they are greedy & they need to make their already sickeningly rich share holders even richer. This is also not helped by the fact that us mindless cretins who buy all this unneccessary tat sure do love a bargain, even if it's at the expense of somebody else's child. Apple & the people who buy Apple's products are to blame. When I heard about Gap's dubious practices I never bought anything from Gap & never would. What is your & the other Apple sympathiser's excuse for continuing to buy from & defend a company who treats people & the world in this way? Don't worry I already know the answer - because they sell something that you've been brainwashed into seeing as 'cool' - you want it, you can afford it so everything else can go hang!

susan s.
rebecca st clair4 years ago

Sandra L- Apart from my 2nd hand PC which I only have as I run a website for a living and an ancient 2nd hand mobile phone which I only use when not at home - no, I do not have any electronic gadgets. No I-phone, smart phone, I pad, Kindle, HD/3D TV, games system also while on the subject no car, holidays, bread maker, ice cream maker & no kids! so I am actually freeer than most to comment. I also try my utmost to limit the amount of 'stuff' I buy in general & avoid large corporations wherever possible I have never set foot in a Starbucks either!. I do not follow fashions, I do not buy 'must have' items, I try to source goods,neccessary to live that ARE NOT made in China, or other similar countries and am happy to pay more for these goods even though I am skint. I buy 2nd hand CDs & DVDs instead of new & try to live my life without the corporate, planet wrecking brainwashing so yeah I can comment. It's people like you who pretend to be full of principles but only once you have bought & consumed & satisfied every trivial whim you have while trying to validate yourself as a human being by dangling expensive trickets off yourself. Anyone who buys unneccessary items is willingly destroying our planet. Rise above the sheep & the brainwashing & stop being the corporate giants' bitch!!!

colleen p.
colleen p.4 years ago

a lot of people are harmed making our products, toys, shoes, clothing. and cute little critters.

and for anyone who thinks their baby is a genious for laughing and touching your electronics. They have apps for cats. does that mean my cat would be smart for playing a cat game? can your baby master the alleged physics needed to be awesome at angry birds? I mindlessly click though the app store and tap things, why should a baby be called "smart" for doing the same?
come back to me when that kid makes a complex game at 7 years old.

Scott Freewheeler


Add to that the fluoride in the water which everyone knows is making us ill, sterile, it is causing cancers and dumbing us down and making us compliant. It was the Nazis in the concentration camps that first started giving it to the Jews. It is even very bad for your teeth. Yet it is still added to the water across several states and even in some parts of Europe. The US is also adding lithium now in some states.

Mercury is another one; 50% of silver tooth fillings are mercury. They are injecting us all with mercury that they now call 'thimerosal' in a load of vaccines. This stuff is so toxic that if you break an environmentally 'friendly' bulb or a fluorescent tube you should immediately evacuate the building and call pollution control (according to industry guidelines on toxic spillage). It is one of the most toxic substances known to man yet it is everywhere.

The truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. This are all verifiable facts. I leave it to the individual to think about why the government are allowing certain corporations to expose us to so many harmful pollutants intentionally. Hopefully the word will spread and people will protect themselves and each other.

Scott Freewheeler

Excellent! If you are on good terms with your friends and neighbours it is worth gently suggesting they take a look at the quality research that is being done as opposed to the obvious cover-up that the industry patsies have paid their own stooges for.

Their meters will also seriously harm you and your family, and especially any children within about a 90 ft radius (children are far more susceptible to RF Radiation).

I am doing everything I can to spread the word but the mass media are not touching it and neither are my local papers. So it is the independent press again where one can find the truth.

It is worth noting that the subject of smart meters opens up a large 'can of worms' and many people will not be able to comprehend that their government could allow any harm to come to us. Their 'normalcy bias' may even prevent them from acknowledging the dangers.

Be careful and gentle with them; remind them that doctors used to say that smoking was good for you and it was allowed in all public buildings, the pope endorsed advertisements for cocaine and heroin for children (serious - look it up), DDT used to be a 'wonderful chemical' and asbestos was used to build schools and nurseries.

Linda Chambre
Linda Chambre4 years ago

Hi Scott I copied the letter and will send it out tomorrow to my electric company, even tho I had called them last week and told them I did not want the new meter. This will just make sure they don't put it in. Thank you for this. The video is interesting to say the least.

Carol C.
Carol Cox4 years ago

i am sure Steve Jobs didn't have autistic children in mind when he developed the Ipad, and the fact that it has been so "user Friendly" is just an added bonus.. to Margarita's diatribe, Steve Job had a tenm of experts, yes. but the main body of working ideas was his.. and he will be missed. Apple and Microsoft changed the way we communicate with each other.. chatting has a whole 'nother meaning! and most of us browse on the Web at one time or another...Good bye Steve Jobs, you will be missed.

Scott Freewheeler

Dear Linda. Thank you for researching the very real dangers of smart meters, iPhones and iPads. I am delighted you are protecting your family and your neighbours.

You may well have a fight on your hands. If your water and energy suppliers will not just agree to leave you with your analogue meter then you must send them the letter below which removes their 'implied consent' and it must be sent registered or recorded mail so they sign for it and know they have been 'served' legally; keep the receipt.

'Implied consent' is how people can enter your property to knock on your door. Take this away with the template letter (link below. See the letter under the video; fill in your name and details) and they are then trespassing if they enter your property. It is the only way to be sure of not getting one, I would do it as a precaution.

If anyone already has had a smart meter fitted, this letter can be altered slightly to remove their 'implied consent' to continue to spy on you.

Click on 'Show More' under this video for an excellent legal notice that will make it illegal for your suppliers to enter your property

Here are some stickers and notices to fit on all your meters which will avoid 'mistakes' from the engineers;