From The Writing Life Blog by Molly
Steve Jobs died last night. And this morning, a huge chunk of the autism community (and the world, really) is in mourning.
Here’s the deal: I’m not an Apple-phile. I don’t get into the whole Apple vs. PC debate. But in 2010, I started reading about the iPad. I saw some videos of children on the spectrum using them, and I read some articles. And after an LSU win (thanks, Les Miles), my mother texted me the following:
“Take O to apple store tomorrow. If he likes iPad, get one and I will pay you back.”
I asked if she was serious, and she replied yes, and I didn’t ask again. I am many things, but stupid isn’t one of them.
So off we went to the Apple store, where O picked up an iPad, and we talked with the store manager. Not only was he fearless that a (then) two year old was holding his 600 dollar piece of electronic magic, but he agreed that we should take it for two weeks, and if it wasn’t working for us in the manner that we hoped, he would take it back without any restocking fees or charges.
There was nothing to lose.
And so much was gained.
O has hyperlexia. I’ve explained it before, but I will again – he has the uncanny ability to count, spell, and read far beyond what is age appropriate. When he was 18 months (the age MB is now), he was lining up the Harry Potter series in numerical order, as well as the Left Behind series (which has 13 books).
We would laugh it off as luck. When we found him bent over a book, we would joke that he was “reading.” And while, at that time, he wasn’t – not in the sense we think of it – he was laying the foundations for us to introduce him to the world of communication.
We’d tried signing, and were currently using PECS, where pictures are used to communicate. We brought home the iPad and loaded a few games onto it that I’d found from app reviews, and he adored them. Spelling. Rhymes. Alphabet songs. We had to be careful, because he’d lose himself in the iPad, and we didn’t want that. So we used it with him, or he got thirty minutes of time with it.
One night, not too far into the future, I heard a clicking sound coming from the kitchen. I walked over, and the word “zebra” was on the fridge. I stopped, stunned, and finally squeaked out: O, what does that say? What is that?
This child, who had uttered one or two words at that point, looked at me and said:
And our world was changed. Again.
We started using that talent – yes, talent; it’s not just a splinter skill – to harness his desire to speak. And little by little, the words came. And then we changed his diet, and a flood of words have arrive in the last few months. Including sentences.
Last night, because of a visit to the pumpkin patch, we watched a few clips of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on YouTube. I typed in “pumpkin charlie brown” into the search window, and he said, aloud:
Uh-kih, car-ey bwown.
Yeah, my kid can read. Yeah, I love hyperlexia. Oh, and yeah, we have to be careful with YouTube – he can also type. Just sayin’.
As we snuggled together, I fiddled on my phone, and saw someone post RIP Steve Jobs on Facebook. I had gotten down the Christmas Charlie Brown DVD, and just then, O looked down at it:
Cri-mash car-ey bwown.
And I felt a visceral reaction, as if I had been punched in the gut. The man who had been indirectly responsible for this moment was gone. The tears welled up in my eyes (as they are right now), and I began to cry.
Dear Steve Jobs: Thank you for making something that gave my boy a voice, until he had a voice. “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” You will be missed.
That was my Facebook status; perhaps the lamest attempt at conveying depth of feeling since my father died.
I did the only thing I could think of, after the ugly cry. I prayed. I prayed that arms had been waiting to receive him, and that tonight he was healthy and happy, and that he would be rewarded for all the good he had done on this Earth, for so many. Whether it was intended or not.
For the miracles in my neck of the woods.
For a boy who can read, and spell, and count – and speak.
You can say, “Thank you, Steve.”
Yes, now you can.
Kank woo, Eebe.
Thank you, sir. From the bottom of my heart, which is sad today. Sad, but grateful.