MISSION, Kan. - While many people are hoping for tablets this holiday season, one special group in Mission, Kan., already has their iPads and they're making a big difference in their lives.
Recently, The Mission Project received money from two grants that allowed it to buy 18 iPads for its participants.
The Mission Project helps young adults with special needs, like autism or Down syndrome, live independent lives.
"I do my own grocery shopping," said Kelly Randall. "I recently started getting my own medicine from the pharmacy."
Randall is 29-years-old and has autism. As a participant at The Mission Project, she lives in her own apartment, has a job and a busy social calendar. Her iPad helps her keep track of all of her appointments and keeps her mind sharp.
"I think it has helped me become a smarter person," she said.
Randall loves to read, so having access to a lot of different reading materials on a variety of topics is one of her favorite things about the iPad.
"It helps me stay active and more productive," said Randall.
Sarah Mai has been working with The Mission Project for eight years, teaching participants how to be more social. She helped write the grants for the iPads, knowing it would be a great tool to help the participants reach others in their community.
"It gives them access to the world beyond Mission, Kansas," she said. "It gives them opportunity to meet new people, to communicate with their friends and family that are across the country."
With technology becoming more essential in today's world, Mai said the iPad is helping the participants be more connected, not just digitally, but in their day-to-day interactions.
"It's cool," said Mai. "They get to iMessage. They get to get on YouTube, do social media. They take it to work and they have something to talk about with their co-workers."
Alexander Vesce has Down syndrome. He loves sports and movies, so his iPad helps him stay connected to both.
"I'm starting to love it," he said. "I always check the weather. I love doing Netflix."
Mai said the iPads are another tool to help these young adults achieve independence.
"Some of guys are keeping track of appointments and doctor appointments in ways that they never have before, all on their own because of an iPad," she said. "That makes me proud."
Mai said she is searching for people to help participants better understand their iPads. If you are interested, contact The Mission Project at