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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — This is a special Kidsburgh story — a Christmas miracle.
A local 7-year-old boy who has autism was never expected to say more than a word or two, but today, he’s speaking.
Tyler Winfield was able to communicate for the first time with a special iPad he got a year and a half ago from Variety the Children’s Charity’s “My Voice” program.
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No one ever imagined that gift would lead to him actually speaking for himself, a profound effect on Tyler’s whole future.
“We never in a million years would have thought that it would’ve went from him receiving that device to him actually talking now,” Jen Winfield, Tyler’s mom, said.
Winfield says he asked Santa for a model elevator this year, something he never could have spelled out on his iPad.
“It’s a toy that goes up and down,” Tyler said.
“It’s a complete miracle just for him to actually sit here this year and tell us what he wants for Christmas. He couldn’t do that before,” Winfield said.
Jen says after Tyler got the iPad, he gradually started saying new words.
“I believe that him actually putting his own thoughts into the words that the device was speaking for him, I think it actually taught him to speak. Because he was actually able to hear and process what he being… like what he was thinking was actually being said,” Winfield said.
Many kids with autism or other disabilities get an iPad like Tyler’s at school but don’t have one at home.
Charley LaVallee, CEO of Variety the Children’s Charity, wants every child who needs the iPad to have one.
“Moms and dads, over and over again, talk to me about the frustration. Their kids would hit themselves in the head or they would run before mom and dad could stop them and hit their head off the wall because they were so frustrated because they couldn’t get mom to understand what they were trying to say,” LaVallee said.
The Winfields say their frustration diminished once Tyler could communicate with the iPad, and the whole family is happier.
Tyler’s 13-year-old sister, Ariel McNash, voiced her excitement over his new voice.
“Over the past year, it feels like I actually have a brother now who I can talk to and make sure he feels good about himself,” she said.
From just a couple words to full sentences to singing Christmas carols, Tyler’s voice is a Christmas miracle.
The iPad with the communication software costs $1,200, but Variety the Children’s Charity gives them out free to kids from ages 4 through 21, and it’s not just for low-income families. A family of four making up to $125,000 qualifies.
Just last month, Variety gave out 50 bikes and 30 iPads. In fact, they have more than they can give away, so if your child has any speaking challenges and might benefit, reach out to Variety and see if can help you and your child.