Can the iPad Unlock Autism's Mysteries?

The Gilberts began to notice that their son was drawn to their iPhone. The slick touch screen was easy for him to maneuver, and he would engage with the phone for hours -- something he didn’t do with any of his toys or books. There are still so many unanswered questions about the disease that when a parent finds out their child has autism, they quickly learn that they'll try anything once and hope it works. So the Gilberts concluded it must be the visual interaction that GAGE liked. Coming home from shopping one day, they saw that Gage had spelled the words “Toy Story Pixar” and “Crate & Barrel” using toys letters -- even creating letters from toy and block shapes. They knew he was smart, but even the iPhone experience didn’t shed much light on how they could get him to communicate with them.

Then, they were awarded an iPad after participating in an online program. After six weeks with the bigger device, Gage went from using single, highly prompted words to using language to communicate.

The Gilberts say the change has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Though they don’t think his improvement is attributable solely to the iPad, they believe it has played a huge part in helping Gage realize that words plus words equal sentences and thoughts -- which equal communication. At last, the Gilberts feel like they can connect with their child, becoming a part of his “little world.”

It has been life-changing. Just a couple weeks ago, Gail and Gordon Gilbert heard their son say “Mommy and Daddy” -- a milestone that parents with “typical” children (as the KIDS program at Gage’s school describes children without autism) take for granted. For the Gilbert family, this is huge. It means there is hope. Innovative technology has now given parents like the Gilberts an opportunity to communicate with their child -- for many, for the first time. Imagine what advances are to come.

The Gilberts' experience has inspired them to establish the Gage Rufus Foundation, an organization committed to helping other children with autism in Clark County increase their communication abilities and find their voices. Their mission is simple: to provide every autistic classroom in their school district with an iPad so that other parents can experience the joy they have. As Gage continues to improve, the Gilberts look forward to enrolling him in regular kindergarten, seeing him become an independent adult capable of achieving all that he wants and, eventually, even going to Yale. (Dad says it’s better.)

To find out more and to help the Gage Rufus Foundation, go to GageRufus.com.

(Watch "Gage speaks" at PJTV.)