Reconnecting with Life

Published in Connection magazine, Fall 2019

Seetong Franklin started noticing small changes with her 2-year-old daughter, Alex. Smiles and giggles came less frequently. Alex interacted with her family less and less, opting to play alone and developing a singular fascination with her older brother’s toy car parts. Little by little Alex regressed, losing her words and all facial expression. The less she was able to express herself and communicate her needs, the bigger her frustration – and tantrums – grew.

The family’s pediatrician referred Alex to Seattle Children’s Autism Center and she was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age 3. Franklin credits the patience and persistence of the center’s speech therapists – and donors to the center who fund iPads that are not reimbursed by insurance – with changing the course of her daughter’s life.

Katrina Davis and a patient

Alex Franklin, 12, (with Katrina Davis, a family advocate at Seattle Children's Autism Center) is mostly nonverbal. She learned to communicate words and concepts that she cannot voice using an iPad funded by donors to the center.

Alex’s breakthrough came during a speech therapy session. She tapped a button on the iPad with a picture of an Oreo, and her therapist immediately gave her a cookie. Alex quickly learned that the iPad was more than an “Oreo dispenser.” Her therapist showed her how she could use it to ask to go to the park or to say important words like “more” or “stop.” The more words Alex learned, the fewer tantrums she had; eventually, they stopped altogether.

“Alex is now 12. She’s sweet and calm and loves school, music and dancing,” says Franklin. “The Autism Center helped Alex connect with the world in new ways. Without the early help she received there – and the gift of the iPad that Alex still uses every day – our life would be so much harder.”