Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
30th president of US (1872 – 1933)
Autism can render even the most intelligent powerless. My wife and I have witnessed this fact, as countless aspects of our son’s autism have left the brilliant baffled. It seems apparent intelligence alone cannot defeat autism. The persistence of which Calvin Coolidge spoke is the vital, and often missing ingredient in the journey of discovery necessary to solve this mystery.
The parents of autistic children and adults have immense reserves of this persistence. Channeling their energy will lead to breakthroughs, which can resist passive intelligence, but not the persistent type.
Passive intelligence is satisfied with effort, happy with progress, and returns home each evening to pursue a life free from autism. Persistent intelligence lives the challenge, measures effort by progress, and is consumed from dawn to dusk with the pursuit of breakthrough.
Passive intelligence cannot defeat, overcome, or make significant progress in the quest to unravel the mystery of autism. Only persistent intelligence can achieve this goal. Parents of children with autism can turn the passive persistent, which is why every organization or individual in this fight, should value and include them in their efforts.
The marriage of the passive with the persistent has given birth to Digital Scribbler, and the communication software we are releasing. We call our new software “Quick Talk”. It is the result of a multidisciplinary collaboration of parents, teachers, speech therapists, and software engineers. Autism families have injected the brilliance of those who have volunteered ideas, insight, and time with passion.
What is Digital Scribbler?
Digital Scribbler is a startup of the social entrepreneurship variety. Our mission is to apply technology to the task of overcoming human limits. Quick Talk is an android app, whose purpose is to overcome the limits placed on those with autism who are functionally non-verbal.
What Is Your Vision?
Autism is one of the most formidable challenges of our time. The numbers are chilling, as 1 in 110 kids receives a diagnosis of Autism. It becomes even more sobering when examining the military, where the number is 1 in 88.
Rarely mentioned is the 30% of those living with autism who are functionally non-verbal. This fact was recently highlighted at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR).
Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., Autism Speaks’ Chief Science Officer, chaired the session and set the stage for the audience to appreciate the importance of this particular topic. An estimated 30% of individuals living with autism are functionally non-verbal, yet very little research effort was directed toward helping this group communicate their wants and needs. The inability to communicate leads caregivers and clinicians to the presumption that the cognitive skills in these individuals were low because the tests typically used to assess cognitive skill require verbal or behavioral responses that this group of individuals does not readily produce.
Autistic children and adults with verbal limits are not alone. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates 7.5 million people in the United States have some form of verbal limitation.
A number of tools, devices, and applications have been developed to assist those with verbal disorders. Alternative Augmentative Communication devices are especially important for non-verbal children with autism.
As a father of a son who is functionally non-verbal, I want and need something, which fits seamlessly into our lives. I want communication at the speed of life. There is enough anxiety involved with making trips and transitions. We don’t have time or space for bulky and complicated devices, whose software was designed for the stationary life we rarely live.
We want to leave “BCS” devices (Bulky, Complicated, and Stationary) for those unusual moments, but when on the move, we need communication at the speed of life. We need mobility, simplicity, and flexibility.
Mobility, Simplicity, & Flexibility?
What does the ideal device and software look like?
Mobility: It needs to fit in a pant pocket or purse. This means a phone or at most a 7 inch tablet, the larger of which can fit into the side pocket of cargo pants. I want to go anywhere with my son, whip out this device, and have communication at the speed of life.
Simplicity: When we are on the move at or away from home, we can’t have software developed for those with computer science degrees. It needs to be simple and intuitive. Setting it up ought to be easy, since the life of an autism family is already complicated. Oh yeah, and don’t give me software capable of giving a college lecture. Don’t make it try to say too much. When we are on the move, we need quick and functional conversation.
Flexibility: I want the software to work for me, not have me working for it. Don’t give me a bunch of stuff someone else set up, and make our family adapt to their style of communication. Give me something I can customize. If I want it to talk about planes, trains, or automobiles, then I ought to be able to do it. I want personalized rather than engineered communication.
BCS devices are of critical importance, but more often than not, they get in the way when traveling at the speed of life. Give me mobility, simplicity, and flexibility…this is what Quick Talk is all about.
Cheap, Cheap, Cheap
When I was in elementary school we had a favorite a joke. It went something like this, “you are so stingy that when you walk by the birds go cheap, cheap, cheap.” As parents of autistic children we chirp with the birds.
Affording smartphones and tablets is not for the faint of heart. It is an expensive endeavor. Android has proven they will be the price leader. They have cheaper devices, and developing software for them is less costly.
Just My Imagination
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
While many people provided opinions and advice, when it came down to it the core team developing this was small and dedicated. I am grateful to them, and they know who they are…what we imagined has become a reality.
This is only the beginning for us. Our aim is to develop a sustainable company, which will be sensitive to the needs and challenges of families with autism. So, go ahead and get a copy of our software, use it, and then give us feedback. We will do our best to help you and those you love overcome their human limits.