Four Chautauqua County students have received free iPads through the scholarship program of a local autism awareness group.
Ready, Set, Grow with Autism, an organization established last year through the collaboration of three Temple Elementary School teachers, supplied the iPads through its scholarship known as "Dylan's Gift."
The giveaway event was held Monday at the Aspire of Western New York building in Jamestown. According to Amy Smith, co-coordinator with Alynn Conlan and Madeline Drago, approximately 50 people were in attendance, including the recipients and their families, along with those who have supported the organization from its beginnings.
The four recipients of Ready, Set, Grow With Autism’s “Dylan’s Gift” iPad scholarship pose with their new iPads at the gifting ceremony Monday. Pictured, from left, are: Jaxon Moore, from Jamestown; Megan Dobson, from Clymer; Nelson Robles, from Dunkirk; and Jeremy Long, from Falconer.
"The kids were all very good and excited," Smith said, whose 7-year-old son, Jase, has Asperger syndrome. "All the families were so gracious, and so happy to be able to get this for their kids. We can't wait to see what happens with it."
Because this is the first year of existence for both RSG and Dylan's Gift, Smith said it was decided that the scholarship recipients should all be from Chautauqua County. This year, the recipients, all of whom have been placed along the autism spectrum, were: Jeremy Long, from Falconer; Megan Dobson, from Clymer; Nelson Robles, from Dunkirk; and Jaxon Moore, from Jamestown.
A fifth iPad was also donated for use by preschool speech therapists to collect data and see if the device can enhance the communication abilities of younger students.
"This year, we kind of opened up (Dylan's Gift) for students (in) kindergarten and up. If it works out for some of our younger kids, we can open it up for kids as young as 2 to utilize that technology," she said.
The focus of RSG is on utilizing technology to help autistic children develop verbal and other communication skills. The Dylan's Gift iPad scholarship was created in order to provide this technology to children on the autistic spectrum for use in developing communication skills.
The iPads are intended to serve as learning tools for the students. The primary feature of the iPads is a communication app called, "Proloquo2Go," which allows children to answer questions through input of information. Smith said Proloquo2Go has the ability to be individualized for each child and their specific needs.
"Each kid got an iPad with a military-grade protective case and Proloquo2Go on it, and there's a warranty on it," said Smith. "So, if something happens, there's a small fee to replace it. We're going to control the iPads so we don't have kids using Facebook or Netflix on them, because that's not what they're intended for."
The Dylan's Gift iPad scholarship was named in honor of Dylan Hockley, a 6-year-old autistic boy who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting last year. Wanting to do something in Dylan's memory, RSG asked Dylan's parents if it could name its iPad scholarship after him.
According to Smith, Dylan's family had intended to come to Monday's event but were unable to due to a scheduling conflict. The Hockleys did, however, send a statement to RSG - which Smith read for the attendees and included on the RSG website.
For more information on Ready, Set, Grow, the Dylan's Gift iPad scholarship and to see photos from Monday's giveaway event, visit www.rsgwithautism.com.