iPad

My son has Ocular Albinism.  It doesn’t slow him down much, but it does make reading a frustrating experience for him.  I’ve found his frustration disheartening because my son is a very good reader.  He has the ability to give characters voices and can work unfamiliar words out pretty well.

At our church children are given a Bible at a certain age, and our son is receiving his this year.  We assumed that we could get a large print Bible that would work for him, but on Monday we checked out the large print Bibles and found that there we wholly unsuitable for someone with my son’s sight issues.  The font was still far too small for him to read without a magnifier of some kind, and even then the paper was so thin the text on the opposite side could easily be seen – for someone who needs strong contrast, it would have made it impossible for him to read.

Three years ago he would have been out of luck, but the advent of digital readers offers my son a chance to learn to enjoy reading like everyone else in the family (which he desperately wants to do).  So my wife and I resolved that we would look for grants to help acquire an iPad for his use in school, home, and church.  Really, that wouldn’t have been a difficult task.

You may be asking, “Why an iPad?”  For a few reasons:

  • It’s backlit.  The e-ink displays are nice, but they are terrible in low light and so the lit screen is a must for someone who has vision issues like my son.
  • It’s out.  I would have loved to see what Android and WebOS tablets will come out – but they aren’t here yet and we have a small window to get our son reading for enjoyment.  We also will need it for school come September.
  • It’s simple, he took to it immediately.
  • It’s got multiple book stores.  iBooks is nice, but the book selection is terrible.  Kindle has a nice book selection but for some dumb reason they limit how big you can make the font.  Kobo isn’t a great experience, but has good font sizes and a good number of books.  B&N doesn’t have their iPad reader out yet, I expect it to be well-designed.
  • Even though it’s simple, it’s multi-function.  I can set up a drop-box between him and his teachers and he can have access to lesson notes, reducing the strain looking at the board puts on his eyes.

So, those are some of the reasons.  Like I said we had committed to writing grants to acquire the device, but we didn’t have to wait that long.  In a rare AT&T late voicemail delivery #win, my mother called up shortly after we left the Christian book store and went on to other errands.  She works at a local university so I said, “Hey, while you’re on the line, do you think you could give me some leads on where to apply for educational grants?”  When my mother asked why I was looking I told her about what we wanted to do for our son and why we thought the iPad would work well for him.  She said, “You have a grant.”  I said something like, “Whubhuh?” To with my mother replied, “It’s called ‘Aunt Ann’s estate.'”

My great aunt, the last matriarch of the depression generation for our extended family passed away last year, she apparently left money to her nieces and nephews and my mom was looking for a good way to spend it.  She said, “This is what I want to do with it, go get him one.”

Now, my folks are not wealthy.  It also wouldn’t have been difficult to write a grant for the device, so I tried to balk at my mom’s generosity by nervously chuckling.  She got a bit miffed with me when I did that. Mom’s can do that.  Her offer also wasn’t some sort of impulse purchase (that’s my job).  My Aunt Ann spent her entire life in the service of others, particularly in seeing the elderly empowered rather than set aside in their later years.  She even was invited to a White House dinner once because of her work (I remember readin the invitation).  My mom wanted to do something with the money that would be in line with her aunt had lived – she insisted this was it.

One of the things I will always be thankful for in my family, both nuclear and extended, is the value of education.  My mom saw a way to see that her grandson could strive forward, and she jumped on it.  I’m very thankful.

Below is a video of our son seeing the iPad for the first time on Monday.  Before you watch it let me stress a couple of things:

  • This is his iPad.  Yes, I’m a geek and it it tempting to take this with me wherever I go and play with it.  That would be a terrible thing to do with my mother’s generosity.  Yet, it’s tempting – but it’s not mine.  I’ll have to save up money for that.
  • While he says, “It has my games” in the video – I have very few games on this (and some are for my wife to play after our son crashes for the night).  He likes “little metal ball” – and it’s good practice for his eye-hand coordination. This is for reading, and if he takes it into his room at night that’s all he will be allowed to do with it. He has a DsiXL for games, it was his birthday present.

So, yes, I will do some reviews on my thoughts on the iPad and it’s uses, but I’m more interested in tracking how my son uses it.  He’s very into the Winny The Pooh that comes with iBooks.  Now if iBooks would only get the Narnia books.  I got him a sample chapter of Eregon, but he said, “No, this is a book where people die – I don’t like those.”

Interesting Developments…

Most folks who read my blog don’t realize that my son has a genetic disorder called “ocular albinism.”  What this means is his eyes don’t have a whole lot of myelin – and so the signals from his optic nerves aren’t processed as cleanly as a “normal” eye.  This trait is a lot like hemophilia in that it is passed on from daughter to son over generations.  My wife’s line has several people who were affected by the trait (including her father), and the disorder seems to be getting weaker with each generation that has it (my son has about the weakest form that a Caucasian male can have, African-American Males who have the trait tend to fare better).

I’ve never really seen myself as the father of a “special needs child,” but we are certainly making sure that the school is aware of his particular needs and that he will be given the tools he needs to learn well (I’m even contemplating looking up a combination smart-board/tablet set-up for him when he get’s to higher grades).  Other than that, my son’s pretty much like any other boy.  He loves physical play, star wars, and legos.  In a sense, he’s a chip off of the old block.

Still, as he gets older this is going to become more of an issue when it comes to driving (one of the few rights of passage we have left), sports (anything with a ball might be out of the question, which is a shame ’cause he’s got a great throwing arm, and good form to boot), and the general suckage of being “different” in middle and high school.  It’s because of that knowledge that when something like this comes up, and in our own back-yard, I get a bit excited.  For one specific condition, researches at U Penn (where our son has his doctor) have managed to successfully repair genes in the human eye – and seem to think that the younger a person is the more benefit they are likely to get from the treatment.

While the disorder being treated isn’t the one our son has, things like this give me hope that maybe our Son will get a treatment that repairs his eyes some time in his lifetime.  Though, the idea of gene therapy actually gives me the heebie-geebies.  I sometimes wrestle with the wisdom of genetic manipulation (just watch “I am Legend”).