Devices Aim to Help Children With Autism Speak
Imagine feeling ill and being unable to tell anyone what hurts. Or longing for pizza on your eighth birthday but ending up with Chinese takeout because you couldn't explain what you wanted. These are the kinds of frustrations, experts say, that are faced by the more than 1 in 150 children in the United States who have a diagnosis of autism.
The solution to some of those problems could be the push of a button away. A set of aids -- ranging from simple, notebook-size plastic boxes to more sophisticated devices that resemble a clunky BlackBerry -- has been developed to help those with autism express their needs. The devices range in price from about $100 to several thousand dollars. Many are designed to be portable and the simpler ones are also nearly indestructible, a key advantage for children who may rock in a seat against a backpack or are prone to throwing things.
Karen Kaye-Beall, a mother of two children with autism, became interested in so-called augmentative devices for their ability to increase the communication skills of her son, Tyler, who is 15. The director of an autism support center in suburban Maryland, Kaye-Beall has created a small showroom in her Montgomery County home where people can test the devices and find what best suits their family's needs.