This is Dillan. Dillan has autism and is non-verbal, leaving him with no way to communicate with others throughout most of his life. “So many people can’t understand that I have a mind,” he explains, “all they see is a person who is not in control.” However, with the help of an iPad loaded with apps, Dillan has been able to gain a voice and interact with the people around him.
April is Autism Acceptance Month, a movement which encourages people to “treat autistic people with respect, listen to what we have to say about ourselves, and make us welcome in the world.” Dillan’s story has been shared thanks to Apple, who have set up an Autism Acceptance hub, featuring this video, for the month.
In Australia an estimated one in 100 people have autism, totalling almost 230,000 people. Autism also affects almost four times as many boys as it does girls. Despite making up around 1% of the population, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network points out that “too often, our national conversation on autism is something that happens about us, without us.” And while a smaller proportion of people with autism are non-verbal like Dillan, this only highlights the importance of having a voice, of being heard and accepted.
Dillan makes use of a combination of apps to communicate, two of which are Augmentative Alternative Communication or AAC apps, and another called Keeble that provides an accessible keyboard for people with physical and vision impairments.
The first of the two AAC apps is called Proloquo4Text, and is specifically designed to give a voice to people who can’t speak, providing a range of natural-sounding voices in 18 different languages. The other, Assistive Express, is a similar app designed to be simple and accessible, allowing people to express their thoughts and feelings in the easiest way possible with features such as word prediction and favourite word lists.
To see more on Dillan’s story, check out the below video for the perspective of Dillan’s mum and teacher, along with more from Dillan himself.