Alex Workman Fund: Autism Speaks Through Technology 7th July 2015 When you think of the Rush County Community Foundation and its impact on the community, what do you, as a member of this great community, think of? Someone could think of the grants awarded to the Rush County Historical Society or the Rushville Police Department. A member of this community may think of Rushville’s Riverside Park Amphitheatre, and the joy of music given to many in our community during the summer. Someone probably would think about the scholarships given to many of Rushville Consolidated High School’s students and alumni. However, a member of this community probably does not fathom the enormity of assistance given by the generous donors the RCCF to help those who struggle with a developmental disorder. Robert and Angela Workman established the Alex Workman Memorial Fund in 2009 at the foundation in memory of their son, Alex, who suffered from autism and passed tragically in a snowmobile accident. The purpose behind the fund is to support the needs of families who are permanent Rush County residents and who have children that struggle with autism. The fund also serves as an aid to teachers within the community who work with children who have autism. The RCCF has given nearly $6,000 since 2011 with projects such as the grant awarded to Rushville Elementary School West to purchase iPads, covers, and applications to use for students with autism. Technology creates tangible skills used in order to flourish in our community for those with autism. Much research has been done to show the importance of iPad/computer technology in the lives of children who have autism. Vicki Clarke, president and owner of Dynamic Therapy Associates, Incorporated, gave an interview on the website www.autismspeaks.org explaining the importance of technology and autism working together: “I believe the primary benefit of iPad technology is simply the availability of affordable, portable touchscreen technology with a wide variety of applications. We’ve known for years that the computer is a gateway to improving understanding of input (listening & reading) and ability to produce output (speaking & writing) for people with autism. A high percentage of people with autism are motivated by the computer. I believe that this motivation is related to the predictability of the computer’s response. The user knows exactly what the computer is going to do when a specific action is completed (ex: clicking on the “x” makes the picture go away). Unlike interactions with people, the computer will always respond in an expected manner. People are messy and computers are neat! For our friends with autism, this consistency is easy to understand and comforting. The iPad puts this comfortable, predictable teaching friend right in the hands of our children with autism, regardless of where they are. The world can be a confusing, unpredictable place with a constant barrage of input for our children who have difficulty filtering out irrelevant details around them. Many of our children struggle filtering out the sound of fans, the flickering of fluorescent lights, the murmur of people in another room…in order to attend to the relevant information in front of them, i.e. Mommy’s voice asking them to “come here.” Children will often find something they can control on which to focus their attention and drown out all of the confusing input around them. Many of our children self-stimulate for this purpose (hand flapping, picking at their hands, making repetitive noises, tearing paper). Having an iPad gives them a sufficiently stimulating alternative that is also socially acceptable. Beyond simply a distraction or calming device, the iPad has application in teaching skills, just like the computer has in the past. There are apps for teaching reading, apps for teaching social skills, apps for teaching vocabulary, and apps for communication. Careful selection can give children a doorway to improved comprehension, expression and skill development.” If you would like to make a donation to give children with autism a chance at flourishing in this community, donate now to the community foundation online through PayPal or stop in to make a donation! We would love to see you! If a grant from the Alex Workman Fund could assist you, your family, or your students, apply by February 17!