iPad App Helps Youngster Communicate More Effectively

Zach Hayden uses an iPad which helps him communicate with others.

Imagine what your life would be like if you couldn’t speak. It would be very difficult and frustrating. Two and a half-year-old Zachary Hayden knows that frustration. Zach has a severe speech condition that prevents him from forming words. With the help of Tammy Hulsing, an AEA assistive technology specialist/speech-language pathologist from Carroll, Iowa, Zach found that using an iPad app helped him communicate with others.

“We were referred to the AEA because Zach wasn’t speaking, and he had passed his hearing test,” explained Samantha, Zach’s mother. “Zach started receiving speech-language services in September 2010 and started working with Tammy in 2011.”

Tammy is one of over 100 Heartland AEA speech-language pathologists who help area children with speech disorders communicate more effectively. Tammy worked with Zach in the family’s home.

“Tammy worked with Zach on getting him to say the first part of words,” said Samantha. “She had us try to get him to do those exercises, but you could tell that he was still frustrated.”

Tammy decided to have Zach try communicating with the iPad app, TouchChat. It is not necessarily typical to try an iPad with a young child, but Tammy knew from working with Zach that it would be awhile before his speech sounds developed.

“He knew what he wanted to say, but his mouth would not allow that to happen,” said Tammy. “Because I knew his language and communication skills were intact but his speech sound ability was not, I had a pretty good idea that he would be successful with the iPad.”

Zach didn’t take to the iPad at first, but something clicked and it became a very effective tool to help him communicate. It was clear that Zach would need an iPad of his own; however, insurance would not cover one for at least a year. Not wanting Zach to be without something that had been so life changing for him, Tammy wrote letters to area community organizations asking for financial assistance to fund an iPad for Zach.

The Knights of Columbus responded to Tammy’s request and assisted Zach and his family through the “Helping Hands Fund.” On Monday, September 26, the St. Cecilia Council #11242, which is based in Panora, presented a check to the Hayden family to cover the cost of a new iPad.

Zach will use his new iPad as he attends preschool this year. As it is currently his main form of communication, Tammy worked with Zach’s teachers so he can communicate in class. Zach will continue to be assisted by Heartland’s speech-language services so that one day he is able to communicate using his own voice.

Samantha shared additional words of praise for the AEA services that her son has received, “I am truly blown away by the amount of time and support that the AEA offers. Tammy is amazing, and the change in my son has been absolutely amazing!”

Tammy Hulsing, far right, stands with the Hayden family (Photo courtesy of the Knights of Columbus, St. Cecilia Council #11242)

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