When the Apple iPad surfaced in April 2010, many schools adopted it to help children with communication and language skills – but with a starting price of $500, it’s pricey. Out of reach for many families with autistic children who could benefit from the device, Autism Advocacy and Technology News Zone, Inc. (a Nevada nonprofit corporation) wants to help iPads get into the hands of those children.
Established on January 11, 2011, the company has been actively seeking sponsorships and donations to purchase iPads and other technological equipment they can give to those in need; but the response has been lower than anticipated. Even so, David J. Berkowitz, Tech News Zone’s founder and president, remains hopeful that as word spreads and people become aware of their existence, his dream for getting iPads to kids with autism will become a reality.
How an iPad Can Help Autistic Children
Children on the autism spectrum struggle with communication, social, and engagement skills. They have difficulty integrating sensory information and dealing with change. An Apple iPad offers help in all those areas, as well as a unique ability to attract autistic children through their fascination with technology.
While many kids show an equal interest in an iPod, fine motor control difficulties can interfere with their ability to use the tiny icons. An iPad works better because it’s larger, but still portable. For an example of how this newest technological device helps children learn, you can watch a short video of a child with autism tracing letters and learning to spell and read whole words, rather than through phonics.
While many on the spectrum are lower functioning than the child in the video, other apps designed for those with special needs teach:
memory skills through remembering pictures
how to make digital puzzles
By keeping autistic children engaged in playing games, this newest trend can eliminate or lessen their desire to withdraw from the world around them. It also helps attention span, motivation, and their ability to interact with parents and educators.
What Makes Autism Advocacy and Technology News Zone, Inc. Different?
Helping autistic children overcome the negative aspects of autism is a goal that parents, educators, and companies like Tech News all share in common. While not the only ones attempting to raise money for iPads, this company differs because Berkowitz has Asperger’s Syndrome himself. “I know what it’s like to live withautism,” he says. “So I want to help.” With a strong passion for technology, as well as education, music, and the arts, his mission and dream to serve his fellow autistics and their families fuels the upward climb to overcome the obstacles that most newly organized companies face.
But being able to relate to what autistic children go through isn’t his only reason. After losing four rental homes in the last four years due to each going into foreclosure, Berkowitz also understands what it’s like to live on a shoestring budget, to have his credit ruined due to circumstances in life, and not be able to give your kids everything they need.
The drive to advocate for those even less fortunate than himself propels him forward. “I live, die, and breathetechnology,” he says. “I love it, as do my kids. I am a brainiac, high functioning as pie.” In addition to the gift oftechnology, Berkowitz also wants to “help arts programs and inspire them to include those on the spectrum. I am Asperger’s, and my three kids are too. So I have a vested interest in making a difference.”
What Does David Berkowitz Want to Do?
In addition to securing as many iPads as he can get his hands on – through monetary donations, fundraising events, and corporate sponsorships – Berkowitz has implemented Project TEACH. Using each letter in the word to guide him, Berkowitz wants to give the gift of:
T = technology: provide tablets, AAC communications devices, and other computer technology to autistic individuals who need them.
E = educational assistance: ballet lessons, swimming lessons, and skills classes.
A = the arts, culture, and entertainment: donate musical instruments to individuals and classrooms; and provide free tickets to shows, concerts, the theater, and sports events to those who can’t afford them – “So more autistic individuals and families can enjoy their lives.”
C = care and assistance: pay it forward by helping all those in need.
H = holiday help: whether that’s Chanukah or Xmas.
Securing iPads for Kids with Autism is Only the Beginning
It takes a big heart to take on such a large project like giving away Apple iPads, but Berkowitz’s grandiose dreams come with no limits. In fact, he’d like the company to grow into a national foundation for autism one day. But for now, his focus is on getting the necessary funds to gain 501c3 status, engaging with others on Twitter, and running his website: TechNewsZone. “We need all the support possible,” he says. “We accept articles and stories, as well as rants, with regards to the daily struggles of autism.”
He’s also looking for people who can donate their older technological devices gathering dust in the closet, something they just want to update, or their old musical instruments. In addition, he’s always looking for helpin building autism awareness and furthering his company’s goals. “If they can get us known, or on a show like Ellen, that would be huge.”
AOL News, “Engage and Educate Kids with Autism” (accessed June 15, 2011).
Interview with the President of Autism Advocacy and Technology News Zone, Inc., David Joseph Berkowitz