Monday, January 17, 2011

Girl with Down syndrome enhances her communication via iPad

From WBIR-TV in Tenn.

For kids with communication challenges, an iPad can be more than a trendy gadget. In fact, the technology is helping students here in East Tennessee.

"What did you do in the snow Sloan?" one student asked.

"I sled down the big hill with my neighbor Emma," was the response.

It was a typical conversation among 4th graders at Powell Elementary School in Knox County, with a high tech twist.

With the touch of a finger, a voice from an iPad said, "My name is Sloan Brickey."

"Sloan (pictured) is eleven," her mother, Kelly Brickey, said. "And when she was born we found out she had been born with Down Syndrome which means she has one extra chromosome than those of us who don't have Down Syndrome."

Kelly Brickey is also the Executive Director of a parent-led organization called the Down Syndrome Awareness Group of East Tennessee.

"Their brain knows what they want to say, but the communication between the brain and the mouth doesn't get it out clearly," Brickey explained.

That's where the iPad comes in. A specific app for the computer tablet is a customized communication tool for Sloan.

"She is able to engage better because her peers can understand her a little better," Powell Elementary Teacher Andie Breeden said.

Brickey is pleased with her daughter's progress with the iPad. "She's able to show her friends things she does at home, things she does on the weekend. It's very easy for her to use."

Sloan's iPad is portable and she carries it in a colorful case.

"The iPad is a way cool thing. And for me as a parent when I was looking at what was going to work with Sloan, that to me was one of the bigger factors," Brickey said.

Andie Breeden said it is an effective teaching tool. "It's not replacing her language. It's reinforcing it and making it understood."

Through a technology scholarship, the Down Syndrome Awareness Group has given iPads to several East Tennessee students.

"This is something we see helping a broad base of individuals with Down Syndrome in their communication," Brickey said.