As society evolves, so have the ways in which we've integrated technology into our everyday existence. iPads, iPhones, and other devices have cut down on the time it takes to complete tasks, expanded the amount of knowledge available to a person at any given moment, and has even transformed the way we communicate with others.
Devices have become so ingrained in our society that it is almost impossible to function without one. As technological advances continue to transform our lives, it becomes more and more apparent that those without access to these devices are at a disadvantage.
We created the Rug-Ed Products Nonprofit Program to partner with organizations that provide devices to those who wouldn't have access otherwise. Through the program, eligible nonprofits receive a discount on cases to keep their devices operating for as long as possible.
One of the organizations we've had a chance to partner with through our work is Jasmynn's Voice. Jasmynn's Voice is a nonprofit organization that provides a voice to those living with Autism. The organization aims to offset the high cost of insurance-covered devices by gifting iPads to families and schools in Michigan. Each iPad comes with Communication (AAC) Apps that help children learn to communicate with those around them and a Rug-Ed case.
We had a chance to connect with Melissa Archer, President of Jasmynn's Voice, to talk about Jasmynn's Voice goals for the future and how vital digital devices are for the Autistic Community.
Q: What is the mission of Jasmynn's Voice?
M: Provide a voice to those living with autism and together, create communities rich in: awareness, understanding and acceptance. Our goal for this upcoming year is to continue to expand in Michigan (already in 13 counties) and hold 3 training/”gifting” of devices, AAC apps and Rug-ed cases to both individuals and classrooms where kids with autism are learning.
Q: How do tech devices aid in your mission?
M: iPads are a godsend due to their availability as well as cost in comparison to an insurance-covered device. Those can run anywhere from $9,000 and up and are large, must be set up for the child’s language use and cumbersome. An iPad allows our kids to look like “all the other typical peers” who are busy texting and using their phones for communicating. iPads also alleviate many behavior struggles because they can give our kids a voice with which to express themselves rather than acting out of frustration. We’ve seen language grow exponentially after a child has access to the tech tools available on an iPad (and with some great “modeling” of best practices in using the device as an AAC tool).
Q: Can you share a success story from your organization?
For a non-verbal student who has autism, virtual learning can be extremely difficult. In-person students practice communication using visual aids, assistive communication devices (ACC), and core boards in everyday learning.
KeMaree D, one of our iPad recipients was able to continue learning during the pandemic with LAMP, an assistive communication device program to produce words and sentences to communicate. She has done an absolutely amazing job learning the LAMP program as a remote learner. KeMaree uses her LAMP device during lessons to answer questions, communicate her wants and needs, and to communicate with staff and peers. Words can't describe how thrilled we are with how far KeMaree has come.
*State Rep. Bronna Kahle sharing a tribute to Jasmynn’s Voice for their work with others at Jasmynn's Voice Tee 4 Technology golf outing. This event was dedicated to raising funds for the organization to help provide iPads with a special communication app to non-verbal young people on the spectrum in 13 Michigan counties. (photo by Pixie Light)
Q: What are the current challenges that Jasmynn's Voice is facing? How can people get involved to help?
M: Helping parents understand that their son/daughter is listening, learning, and capable of far more than their language level may appear. We cannot “sell these kids short” as they are amazing, have gifts to share, are so much more like their peers than it may seem.
Another challenge is working closely, collaboration, with our teachers and therapists so that a team effort is based on helping the child. It does no good for just one person to hold all the keys to the kingdom. Acceptance/understanding of Autism when out and about in society, if others can see our kids with autism in every setting, then acceptance will be that much easier.
Q: If people want to get to know the organization better, what are the best ways to learn more? And how can they get involved?
M: Social Media- spreading the word about what our darling has been able to accomplish, even while struggling with language, is one of our best tools for expanding Jasmynn’s Voice.
*Follow us on your preferred social network to see more of our work with Jasmynn’s Voice in the upcoming months.