Charlie Goes to Camp
Camp No Camp Yes Camp

Why the iPad is Charlie's AAC Device

Another giant slide ride

Charlie started Tuesday morning by getting dressed in his swimsuit, putting the boogie board in the back of the white car, and telling us 'no camp!'. Or rather, 'NO CAMP.'

As usual, verbal requests to remove the boogie board from the car were met with more no's; showing up to camp with a boogie board seemed like a bad portent. We thought we'd wait Charlie out.

Then I showed him the photo I'd taken last week of the camp. Charlie said 'camp,' pulled the boogie board out of the car, put it in the basement, took off his bathing suit, put on his clothes, put the bathing suit upstairs (I've been sending in a different one than he wears to the beach), got into the car.

I've been thinking that Temple Grandin's notion of 'thinking in pictures' quite applies to Charlie and, too, that the iPad, even without any special apps, has become a de facto augmentative communication device for him. A single photo can be a more effective way of telling him something that a messy mass of words. And, the iPad really just the right size for him to hold and to look at.

Another example of Charlie's very visual thinking processes: When we dropped him off, he insisted we get back into the white car and drive off: In order to have the image of us in our places in the car in his head, so he'd be able to visualize where we were until we picked him up?

Unfortunately, I had to get out of the car and go find someone from the staff as the gate out of the camp was locked. Charlie raced right over when he caught sight of me and stood with his face propped in his hands: "Mom white car. Mom white car sit."I did so as soon as I could and someone came, opened the gate, and off we drove. We waited till 1pm this time to pick Charlie up, extending his time at camp by a half-hour. He had a second good day, doing volleyball, art and swimming.

And he didn't race out quite so fast on hearing we were there.

After an afternoon of bike rides and a trip to firemen's carnival the next town over, Charlie was very ready for bed and asleep before 10 pm.

Camp is -- as Charlie is discovering -- is like school and not like school. It's all activity, much of it outdoors, none of the sitting at a table and having to 'stay on task' that he dutifully gets himself to do, and sometimes is just not into. Charlie likes APE at school and going for walks and runs and has been slowly warming up to doing art. Camp involves all that (and music too) and just that -- not a bad deal (as he's finding out).



Pictures are a great communicator here as well. I haven't tried the Ipad yet. I simply use the images on our digital camera to speak with Wyatt. Love how this limits misunderstandings.
So glad Charlie seems to be enjoying camp so far. The great outdoors is his element.


It's called visual recall and an important skill that you can use to make up short (few words, descriptive photos of activities you are planning) social stories or timelines for these camp/school/summer activity days if he's having difficulty. Be very careful about time promises.

Also, using these photos you can teach him to choose an activity he would prefer b/c he can see where he wants to go. Don't forget to remove activities from the saved file as they become no longer available or you don't wish to do them at that time. You should probably input the possibilities every night while he is sleeping for the next day so he doesn't watch you do it and get upset.

Thinking in pictures is when you read a book and you can see the story in your head in pictures. My sons and I do the first, we can't do the second.

If he could read, you could do the same with words.

Due to my youngests proficiency with electronics and love of them, we are getting a flip book from the ACS. It goes in next week and we hope to have it before too long. We have words and he can talk when he has something to say, but we need to work on wh asking and answering and as we discovered at the testing yesterday he describes things with nouns and we need to push using verbs too. He reads at grade level so although we are starting with boardmaker, we expect it won't last long before we switch to words only.


Yay camp! Crafty parents extending his pick-up time by 1/2 HR increments. Yay parents!
Mostly yay Charlie brave and bold.

Kristina Chew

Charlie's really figured out his own way of using the iPad -- thinking in pictures Charlie-style. Yes, one name for it is visual recall, but also a clue about how his own thinking works. Grandin talks about 'flipping' (metaphorically) through a number of images of an object; a word might lead her to think of one image and then she has to recall the next. It's fascinating to me in terms of some ideas about language and linguistics; about the connection of a sign/word/signifier to a meaning (the 'signified').

Charlie kind of likes just to have lots of photos on his iPad at once. So far, he seems ok with seeing things he can't do; I think it helps to have all the photos as he feels even things he's not doing at the moment (going to the beach) are still 'present.'


Grace loves the photo album too. Her latest trick? Finding a photo of a preferred item on iPad album, taking photo of it with iPhone them adding it to an "I Want" sentence with her App. Theory of mind comes from Apple- thank you Steve Jobs xx

Kristina Chew

I read today that 95% of people surveyed want an iPad when they get a tablet--- I really can't argue.

Someday we'll get Charlie iPad2 with the camera -- I love what Grace is doing! She's giving me some good ideas.

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