Miracle Helps Boy Overcome Severe Autism for His Bar Mitzvah

torahDidja hear? Didja hear? The new iPad cometh! And some of you don't get the hype. But may I offer you one amazing story that might change your mind? It's about a boy with autism who got to be like "everyone else" for a day ... all because of one little gadget from the folks at Apple.

Matthew Emmi can't read, write, or speak in full sentences, and his parents know he will never have a wedding or a high school graduation. But thanks to his (about to be obsolete) iPad, he is now a man in the eyes of his Jewish synagogue. He had an honest to goodness bar mitzah just like every other 13-year-old boy in the faith.


I'd say that's a pretty major mark on the world, how about you? Matthew's family recorded him saying a few words, which were then tied to icons on the screen of his iPad. Hebrew school staff then added the more complicated sayings typical for a bar mitzvah ceremony, which were also tied to icons. By touching those icons, and allowing the little gadget to play his own words out loud, this kid who loves to hum and clap along to the synagogue's cantor got to celebrate a major milestone for Jewish kids. It gave him a voice.

As a parent of a child who doesn't fall under the special needs designation, I'll readily admit that those of us who aren't living it can so easily forget just how major these milestones are. We don't wonder if our kids will be able to have a bar mitzah or walk up onto the stage in their high school auditorium to accept their diplomas. We just expect it.

But these times are huge. That's why we all take 1,001 photos and mark the occasions with big parties where we invite all our family and friends to come in and help us celebrate how amazing our kids are. And we repeat the same celebratory process again and again for each event -- the graduation, the wedding, the baby shower ...

These moments define us. After them, we are changed: high school graduate, wife, mother.

But a kid with severe autism like Matthew doesn't get all those parties and accolades. They don't get the incredible feeling of accomplishment and the resulting pats on the back that fill them up with the love and support of a big extended family. They don't get to "change" and redefine themselves.

Well. Usually. But a little gadget is slowly changing that for these kids. It is giving kids like Matthew "their moment" too. I'd say that's worth a little hubbub about the iPad, how about you?

What's been the most significant game-changer for your kid with special needs?

Image via Sergio Vassio/Flickr

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