My Son the Top-Secret Apple iPad Project




I didn't know Leo, my son with autism, would be appearing on the screen behind Steve Jobs at yesterday's Apple iPad special event in San Francisco, not until I saw a screenshot of Leo on Engadget's event liveblog, followed by blogger Joshua Toplosky's remark, "Man this is actually really emotional ... Damn you Apple for making everyone here cry about the iPad."

Then I squealed, disrupting my work conference call. Finally, the top secret project I'd been keeping quiet about for weeks was revealed!

I knew that Leo and I, his sisters, my husband Craig, and our dear friend Jen might be appearing in something filmed and iPad-related in the near future. One month before, a crew of twenty wonderful, thoroughly professional people turned our house into a film set. They spent the day filming our family talking about or showing the iPad's roles in our lives. My tween Iz got to meet a professional makeup artist, and pick her brain for hours. My six-year-old, Mali, had an unlimited supply of potential playmates/victims. It was both fun and fascinating, seeing an experienced film crew in action.




But none of the crew could tell us what the project was for, or when it would launch -- in fact were were asked to keep quiet until the project went public. It was weird, but not unprecedented for the company in question. I didn't mind, as I figured that whatever the project was, it could only more loudly and widely broadcast the iPad's huge positive effects for kids with autism, kids like Leo. (My savvy husband privately predicted exactly what happened -- that Leo would be in a video for a top-level Apple keynote event.)


Our Living Room as Film Set


It was amusing, keeping mum about the obviously significant event happening at our house -- neighbors kept asking what was happening (possibly worried that we were blighting the street with an ongoing reality show), and one lady even asked if the huge catering spreads and tables at the top of our driveway were so locals could buy food. Poor Leo, his eyes almost popped from their sockets when he discovered the afternoon catering treat table, laden as it was with oversized cookies and candy. I had to ask the catering crew to make it all disappear, otherwise Leo would have spun into a shoot-disrupting sweets-craving tantrum, and most of the shots of him that appeared in the video would not have happened.




The shoot was decidedly Leo-centric. As you may know, and as I've written before in this space, Leo's iPad is an unprecedented positive force in his life. It helps him learn in ways we've never thought possible. We find new apps, new ways to keep him engaged, excited, and interested, every day. The crew knew all about Leo; he was the main reason they were there, and I think they did a lovely job of capturing our boy's iPad enthusiasm and facility.

You can see Leo rocking his iPad and me describing our boy's leaps in independent play and learning in the film crew's final product: a beautifully shot-and-edited video short titled iPad: Year One. (There's a quick bit of Iz playing her piano at 1:20; Leo and I are at 4:40.)


Leo's is not the only iPad advocating autism section of the video. Dr. Howard Shane, from Children's Hospital Boston's Center for Communication Enhancement, was also featured in a segment showing groups of children with autism using iPads in clinical and therapeutic settings. Dr. Shane said,

"Assisting children with autism to communicate is a rather complicated process. The iPad is absolutely part of our clinical practice here ... We're not curing Autism, but we're offering a tool that improves the potential of a person with autism: gives them more opportunities to be better communicators, to be better understanders, to be better learners. The iPad is clearly the next step, it's a game changer."*

Oh, and the iPad event included one small agenda item besides iPads and autism: The new iPad2, which will ship March 11. BlogHer's own Virginia DeBolt covered the iPad2's new features, include front-and-back-facing cameras (instant icon-making!), integrated instruments (our musical Leo is going to jump right out of his skin with glee), and a better PhotoBooth (I hope so, Leo loves making faces at the camera).

We'll be getting an iPad2, I guarantee you that. Not just because of the shiny gadgety goodness, but because it will encourage Leo to take his independence to even higher levels.

What do you think? Are you going to get an iPad2?


Shannon Des Roches Rosa has worked Leo's and his iPad into essays on,, and She hopes that current iPad owners who crave iPad2s will consider donating their old devices to a child, adult, or school in need.

*My thanks to Kevin Marks for the transcription.

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