Like most 16-year-old kids, Dillan Barmache has a lot to say about the world around him. But until recently, he had no way to get those words out. Dillan is autistic and nonverbal. As you can imagine, communication has always been a struggle for him. But in a newly released series of videos from Apple, Dillan shows how new technology is opening up his world. And how important it is keep our ears and hearts open to those around us.
In the first video, Dillan, his mother and his therapist/communication partner talk about coming to terms with Dillan's autism and how he is using new apps on his iPad — namely, Proloquo4Text, Assistive Express and Keeble — to unlock the voice inside his head.
Dillan can now use his iPad to type what he's been wanting to say for years. "Not being able to speak is not the same as not having something to say," notes Tami Barmache, Dillan's mom.
“Having autism is like being in hell,” Dillan says, “and it is a lonely existence."
He adds, "Without a voice, people only see my autism and not the real me."
Deborah Spengler, Dillan's communication support aide, explains how this technology has helped transform the teen's life. “When he began typing, he said it was like being freed,” Spengler says.
“Having a voice has changed everything in my life," says Dillan. "No more isolation. I can finally speak with the people who love me. I can say what I think and let them know I love them too.”
In the second video, Dillan shares what it is like to be non-verbal.
“All my life I wanted so badly to connect with people," says Dillan.
And to see and feel things from his unique perspective on life.
"I can see the wind, hear the flowers. I can feel incredible emotions flowing from those I love.”
Watch. And listen.
The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that autism affects about 1 out of every 68 kids in the U.S. Many of those children suffer from speech and communication disabilities that prevent them from being understood by the world around them. Kudos to Apple for shedding light on this issue and helping to open up the world for Dillan and so many others like him.