Part 2: Your Questions about the Motorola Xoom Tablet Answered

Our Lead Editor continues the investigation on the partnership between Motorola and Autism Speaks.  To gain some background, you may want to read these posts first: HERE and HERE.

Let’s dive in to the journey of one of the families next….  So now we send you over to our editor….

I recalled that the first interview was lunch time – mid-day.  The conversation wasn’t rushed, but we were all pretty busy and I was grateful for Eileen’s candid responses.  She spoke from the heart and was very excited about the work Motorola is doing with the Xoom Tablet and Autism Speaks.  There also was added encouragement that they will be getting more involved with the Autism Community.

But, the day wasn’t over.  I still had to contact Cindy, the mother of two boys on the spectrum, ages 14 and 4. Her older son received the Motorola Xoom Tablet. She’s also very active in the Autism Community and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the San Diego Chapter of the Autism Society. This conversation was later in the evening, and I was intrigued by the viewpoints she had regarding the Xoom, and how it compared with the iPad.

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Autisable:  Hello Cindy, thanks for taking the time to speak with me about your experience with the Motorola Xoom Tablet.  I have a few questions from our readers and members about the Xoom and this program that I hope you’ll help shine the light on.

Cindy:  Glad to answer any questions I can.

Autisable:  Great.  Let’s get started then…”how easy or difficult has it been to make this tool a part of everyday life?”

Cindy:  It’s actually been very easy for us.  We’ve had some experience with this type of technology before we received the Xoom.  We’ve had an iPad since April for our younger son, and have already seen great results from it’s use.  When we found out that we could be a part of this program, we jumped at the chance.

Autisable:  So, you had an ipad and used that along with the xoom?

Cindy: yes.  Last year hollyrod.org gave out iPads through their “Give the Gift of Voice” campaign to help families of nonverbal/limited verbal children the spectrum.  The preloaded apps available on that device helped our younger child greatly.

Autisable: how so?

Cindy: well, he only had about three words and a lot of unintelligible approximations before – and now he’s speaking in full sentences, more clearly, and progressing faster than we can keep up with!

Autisable: Excellent.  But then you had the opportunity to be  part of the Autism Speaks/Motorola program – how did that turn out?

Cindy: our ABA company, Comprehensive Autism Center, Inc., called us to tell us about the project. We wanted to participate for two reasons- If you have a child on the spectrum, getting what you need for your child is a top priority. I like to participate in research studies, especially since we have two children affected by autism. The more we can learn about effective ways to help our children function in society, the better equipped they will be to navigate the world around them as they get older. We were very excited and grateful that we were accepted for the program, and they shipped us the Motorola Xoom Tablet.

Autisable:  Was it pre-loaded with the apps?

Cindy: No, but we muddled through the Xoom App store and found what we needed.  Once we downloaded the apps – we had most of what we needed for our second child on the spectrum.

Autisable:  Ok, you have one kid with the ipad, and the other with the xoom – so I have to ask, what were the pros/cons of them – from your perspective.

Cindy:  Well, we found that the iPad was great for apps. They were easy to find via iTunes, and there is a wide selection to choose from. The apps are easy to use, and helpful for children with disabilities, as evidenced by my little guy’s amazing progress.  Overall, I’d say that the ipad is good for smaller children, if you can disable the home button on the front, which our kiddos tend to want to push over and over! I’m also not a big fan of the Safari web browser. It’s not as user friendly as others, and might not be the best fit for an older child. When the Xoom arrived, we found far more functionality.

Autisable:  How so?

Cindy:  The Xoom provided more tools for us and our son’s therapists to use. He was able to access email easily, and begin using it as a social medium (he’d never emailed regularly before, and it became part of his social goals). We found apps that we used as reinforcers that would keep the whole team on the same page, and encourage our son’s success even more. As a caveat, the button is in the back of the device, which lessens the chance of repetitive button pressing.

Autisable: so you used the xoom like a portable PC, and the therapists was kept up to date on where your kid was at, and provided extra reinforcement?

Cindy:  yes!  The Xoom has the extra features that a parent with special needs would want in a device like this.  We originally had the big clunky insurance-covered communication device that was prescribed to our younger son, but communication was still a bit tedious, as it was incredibly difficult to navigate (and the pictures were very generic). As many who deal with the big, clunky-type devices know…it makes kids on the spectrum stand out as different, whereas carrying around a tablet device is something many kids do nowadays. It also didn’t have the ability for therapists and parents to work together on key areas, like setting schedules and routines, providing reinforcement, etc. It was incredibly bulky, very expensive, and frustratingly limiting.

Autisable:  You mean to say that the apps and the xoom device were able to do this better than the ipad?

Cindy:  yes, in several ways.  The iPad is great, don’t get me wrong, but the extra functionality and added features helped us and our child’s therapists understand even more about the technology. It was also much more appealing to our older son, who liked the computer-like interface.

Autisable: What was the biggest challenge you had in dealing with the Xoom?

Cindy:  Finding the appropriate apps to download through the Xoom store and availability of apps specific to our son’s needs were our biggest challenges. But we were able to find some, and once we did, we were good to go.

Autisable: Has there been any difficulty keeping it safe (i.e. need for a durable case, etc.)?

Cindy:  We have a pretty solid rule – if you can get a good, sturdy protective case, get it.  Even though we received these free, we still purchased protective cases for them. These devices are expensive, and kids are still kids, regardless of the labels they carry.  

Autisable: what is one thing that you’d like to see come from this study?

Cindy:  I’d like to see insurance companies cover the cost of these devices for communication and learning for those on the Autism Spectrum, rather than those big clunky devices that are out now.  It would just seem cost effective to me – after all, these devices cost less than a $1,000 – and those other clunky communication devices cost several thousand dollars.

Autisable:  good point.   

Autisable: Thanks again, for taking the time to share with us your experience.

Cindy:  Thank you.

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The conversation with Cindy opened my eyes further on how technology has helped families with Autism.

My experience in talking with Eileen and Cindy showed me something even more encouraging – that people want to help one another succeed in life.

Thanks again to both Eileen and Cindy, for their time and efforts to support and encourage the Autism community, and to provide some insight on the case study going on between Motorola and Autism Speaks.

We welcome anyone to connect on Autisable and get active in their local community to share and discuss the issues surrounding Autism.

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Joel Manzer
Husband to an Amazing Wife, and Father of a Child with Autism. Founding Lead Editor of this site called Autisable. Click here to join Autisable!
Joel Manzer

Joel Manzer

Husband to an Amazing Wife, and Father of a Child with Autism. Founding Lead Editor of this site called Autisable. Click here to join Autisable!

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