A blog about resources for autism and care and treatment.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Christmas in July!

The BEST part of my job as executive director of ACT Today! are the days I get to play Santa Claus and visit some of the children and families who are the recipients of ACT Today! Grants. Recently I was able to do just that thanks to the generosity of our new board members, Lisa and Eddie Guardado (if you are a sports fan, you may have heard of Eddie – he played baseball for years in the Major Leagues).

Eddie and Lisa Guardado
When Lisa and Eddie joined the board of directors, they generously donated a gift of $45,000 for a special fund for the iPad 2 for children with autism. They had watched as the iPad opened up a whole new world for their little girl, allowing her to communicate and socialize in ways that she never could before. The Guardados decided they wanted to help other children on the autism spectrum who were less fortunate, which resulted in 43 children around the country receiving the iPad 2.

Talk about Christmas in July!

When we found out that 2 of the grant recipients lived nearby our offices in Tarzana, we jumped at the chance to go visit them and deliver the iPads ourselves. Amy, who oversees all our grants (as well as runs our office, and keeps my life running J) and Lexi, our fabulous grant intern, decided to tape our visits so Lisa and Eddie could see the wonderful world their gift opened up to two little boys.

9 year old Max lives in Woodland Hills, CA., and has high functioning autism, but that wasn’t always the case. His family has sacrificed (his mom quit her career to stay home with him) and scraped to give Max the best care possible, and he has come a long way. Max is fascinated with technology and computers, and before we left he has already learned to use the camera and was recording videos to email to us! I have no doubt that Max will work in movies or television one day – and I will get to say “I knew him when!”

Max holding his ipad

Here is an email from Max’s mom. we just received one week after our visit:

We are so thrilled and grateful that Max's wish for an iPad2 was granted to him! We have downloaded many wonderful apps that help him with reading (Make a Word, The Story Mouse), math -- a tough subject for him (Math Series) and telling time -- another concept he has trouble with (It's Learning Time). Academics are hard for Max, but we have found a way to make them a bit more fun (always a plus)! Despite years of different therapies, Max still struggles with his play skills, but the iPad has sparked his imagination with creative apps (Draw the Stars, Fluidity, Connecting the Dots is Fun, Spin Art) and has become quite the social tool. He uses the iPad as a conversation starter by showing others photos he's taken, movies he's made or games he'd like to play with you. And he has figured this all out himself; I never showed him how to navigate the iPad.
Max's speech therapist also gave us a large list of apps for Apraxia and Communication, which has been very helpful. Overall, it seems like the possibilities for what he can do with this amazing computer are endless. We believe that Max, like his new iPad, has limitless potential. Thank you for helping him reach it.
The second delivery was to Temple City, and the home of Dustin, age 11, another child who has made significant improvement thanks to the dedication of his mother, who has watched him progress from non-verbal to having conversations with the help of lots of ABA therapy and biomedical interventions.

Max and his mom

I received this email from one of Dustin’s therapists shortly after our visit...
Hi Nancy,
I saw Dustin yesterday and was excited to see him in action with his new iPad! He was so excited to show me how to use it. I love that it is an easy way to help him communicate, but hadn’t even thought about the appeal of the fun apps on there in terms of motivating his peers to interact with him! he showed me how he can use to help him talk and then we played some games. I have known Dustin for 6 years and have never seen him so excited. Thank you!!!!
Taira Lanagan, MS, BCBA
Just like everyone, I experience days on my job that are challenging and discouraging. Thank you, Max and Dustin, for reminding me why I love doing this. I have a thank you note from Max next to my computer, his sweet smiling face holding up his iPad. I will look at it to remind myself that all children with autism can make improvements with the right care and treatment and that they ALL deserve the very best. You have given me fuel to keep going for a long time now.

That is a gift that money can’t buy.