How an old iPad can change a life (guest post)

September 6, 2012

I often write about “causes”, and this one involves my best gadget, iPad, and some of the most wonderful and spirited kids around, those with special needs. The project is called iPads for Lionhearts, and was started by the super Stacey Vee, mom of two, including one lionheart. Here she explains lionhearts, and her project.

“When I pitch the idea of #iPadsforLionhearts to someone new, the first question I’m asked is: “What’s a lionheart?”

A couple of years ago I began writing about my journey raising my son who has a rare brain malformation, calling him: Travis the Lionheart. I’m chuffed that it has really caught on. It’s tremendous to hear people referring to children with special needs as “lionhearts”.

In this case, the lionhearts we’re collecting iPads for are children who have autism.

So how does #iPadsforLionhearts work? It’s a bit like a matchmaking service. Now that we’re already onto the iPad 3 model, with the iPad ‘mini’ rumoured to be out by the end of 2012, there are people who have an old iPad 1s or 2s at home. They’re just lying there, gathering dust.

#iPadsforLionhearts takes your second-hand iPad, restores it to its factory settings, and then we give it a new home with a child with autism who can’t afford one.

We’ll collect your second-hand iPad from you no matter where you are in South Africa. We also have sponsors on board who have provided iPad covers and iTunes vouchers, so each ‘lionheart’ on our waiting list receives a complete iPad “starter pack”. We even give instructions so mom and dad can help set up an account with the US iTunes store.

Why do lionhearts need an iPad? What’s all the fuss?

Children with autism struggle to learn in a traditional classroom environment or attend mainstream schools. These ‘differently wired’ young minds require a “differently wired” education system, and they’re often placed in (very expensive) private schools that cater for children with special needs.

When the first iPad was launched in 2010, teachers who specialised in working with autistic children discovered something extraordinary. Something clicked. For some reason, the iPad is a learning tool that connects with the autistic mind. Using the autism-specific apps to be found in the iTunes store helps these misunderstood kids learn, communicate and gives them confidence in an otherwise very lonely world.

I’m quick to point out though, that the iPad is not a miracle cure for a child with autism. It is simply a tool that’s proven to get results. Children with autism come in a spectrum of flavours, and so do their parents. Putting in the times and effort to uncover which apps and which learning methods are the right fit for your autistic child is the key that unlocks the potential, not the iPad.

Disclaimers aside, we’re seeing success. The #iPadsforLionhearts goal this year is humble. We want to give 10 underprivileged children with autism an iPad by December. So far we’ve managed to re-home six iPads – and only have four to go!

Of course, it’s hard to get people to part with their old iPads. That’s a R7000 gadget! That’s why we also do fundraisers, and use the money raised to purchase second-hand iPads.

We’re a home-grown South African organisation with heart, and #iPadforLionhearts needs your help, even if you don’t have a spare iPad to donate.

You can visit the website to read more.

Note: This guest blogger was not paid for her post

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