A couple of weeks ago, my daughter Grace lost her iPhone. Grace is a 15-year-old with a diagnosis of autism and a severe speech delay. Some people would call her “non-verbal” but she can say a few words and if people don’t understand she shows them a picture.
When Gracie was small, she used to have to carry a big book around to hold these pictures, but then the iPhone was invented and a very kind person gave us one to try. I was able to transfer all her pictures onto a folder on that phone and whenever we didn’t have a picture, we could take a photograph and add that to her collection. Grace is considered to have an intellectual disability but she had no trouble navigating that iPhone, and she carried it around with her everywhere in an especially strong cover to protect against accidents.
With the help of a young Irish gaming developer called Steve Troughton-Smith, I was able to create an App to store and sort those pictures and in honour of my daughter, he called it Grace App.
The start of a lovely initiative to donate old iPhones to children with autism. The organisation restores any iOS 6-capable iPhone or iPad to factory settings, loads the Grace application, puts them a tough, donated case, and gives them to a child who uses it to greatly expand his or her communication abilities. It shows just how important technology like smartphones has become for people with disabilities or other problems. It can enable some of them to lead much richer lives, and that really puts a huge smile on my face.