Leawood boy with speech disorder uses iPad app to communicate

LEAWOOD, Kan. - Four-year-old Cade Griffin was diagnosed with autism and apraxia, a speech disorder that makes it difficult to say words and sounds.

But that stopped him from communicating with others. 

Jaclyn Griffin, Cade's mother, said she applied for a grant through Variety KC, to receive an IPad for her son.

Now three months later, his voice can be heard with the help of an app call Touch Chat. 

“Before the iPad, we really didn't know how much we would be able to verbally communicate or how interested he was in language or letters because he didn't have any way of telling us,” Children’s Therapy Services owner and Cade’s therapist Jennie Bjorem said. “We know he's spelling, probably doing some reading. We've allowed him to completely have the device to himself so he can learn to motor plan and learn where things are.”

Jaclyn Griffin said just within the few months that he’s had the iPad, she’s seeing a lot more confidence in her son.

“He's been blowing through goals left and right because we think it's a confidence factor, coupled with the fact that he's now communicating, but he just seems so much happier,” she said. “If we go to an unfamiliar place, he doesn't get upset as nearly as often because before I think so much of his needs were met through routine. So if we would go to a new place, he would get upset because I think he didn't think he would be able to get his needs met. And now that doesn't happen as often.”

Bjorem said he’s also learning how to acquire sounds. Through the device she says he’s able to express more feelings.

“We do a lot of play based things with Cade, things that he enjoys, things that he likes to do, so we are working on using his device for requesting, for telling us things he doesn't want to do, for commenting, how he's feeling, social language,” she said.

Bjorem said it also allows him to be social with the people closest to him.

“It’s allowed him to communicate with his peers. It's allowed him to communicate with his family,” Bjorem said. “It's life changing. It's absolutely life changing. He can't function without it.”

Cade’s mother said she has seen her son grow tremendously in the last few months and is excited to see all that he’ll accomplish in the future.

“He's amazing," Griffin said. "And if the right person gives him the right chance, he's going to do something incredible for the entire world, something huge."

Both Griffin and Bjorem hope Cade’s story will raise awareness for others to be inclusive of everyone.

“Even if a child is nonverbal or an adult is nonverbal or that may have a physical handicap, don't always assume that they don't know what you're saying, because there's a good possibility that they do,” Bjorem said. “They just don't have the means to verbally communicate without some type of augmentative communication device.”

Bjorem says using this technology as a way to communicate is a game changer. She says Cade will be able to use more programs the older he gets to express his feelings.

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