Richard Hart reports on the Drive to Discover a digital coach (Geoffrey Rush) for "The Kid's Speech."
"How are you?" asks the computer voice after a finger's push. "OK. Good question," says the teacher." It's an easy question for most of us, but not so much for Jennifer Lambert and her friend Alessandra Lituanio. These two teenagers carry on with touch-screen pads. One of the pads has sparked a revolution in speech and language therapy.
"What's this thing?" we ask Jennifer.
"iPad," she replies through her... well, iPad.
"Is it easy to use?"
"Yes," she says.
Her and her friend's teacher is Assistive Technology Specialist Dan Phillips. "I think that the iPad is just beginning to tap into the whole world of special needs," she says. Phillips is a specialist with the Technology Resource Center of Marin County, which is undertaking to supply iPads for some of its 4,000 students in special education. That's something unthinkable with its predecessor, purpose- built devices like the one these kids used to use that cost up to $7,000. The iPad costs one-tenth as much and never mind that it is infinitely more flexible.
"If you go onto the iTunes website," Phillips points out, "the fifth item down is special education links. That just shows you the power that special ed has right now on what's happening with this movement."
And, it is a movement. A phone conversation between Jennifer and Alessandra is an iPad conversation.
"Hello, what are you doing?" comes out of Alessandra's device.
"Want to come over?" asks the other.
"Nice. OK," Phillips tells them.
"So you asked her 'Do you want to go see a movie?', right?"
"OK, and you asked her, 'Do you want to go hang out at the mall?'"
Any word can be typed to be spoken, but phrases can be created for easy recall later. And, what about the King's Speech? Is there an app for that?
"You know, I'm waiting for that," Phillips laughs. "I'm sure it's seconds away from coming."
Parents are raising the funds for the iPad deployment through a group called "Dedication to Special Education."
Dedication to Special Education site for parents
Apps for Special Needs