Review By Robert Eckert
Article written for the National Autism Newsletter
When I bought my computer, I had high expectations that it would be a tool that vaulted
my son to a higher level of capability. My son Bobby is a nonverbal seven year old with
autism. After I became adept with the equipment myself, I was ready to introduce my son to
the world of computing. He showed an interest in the computer because it resembled a
television. I quickly discovered my son could not understand the relationship between the
movement of the mouse and the placement of the cursor on the screen. It was too abstract
for him to comprehend. I tried working with him placing the cursor where I wanted it and
then instructing Bobby to "click the mouse." This worked somewhat, but it took
away much of my son's spontaneous input. I quickly felt cheated by all the computer hype.
Luckily, I remembered that in his school they had something called "touch
screens" that seemed as though they might help Bobby.
I contacted KEYTEC, a company I located in a computer magazine, and began exploring
options for financing this purchase. My wife Joanne suggested that I investigate the
possibility of gaining a reimbursement for the purchase because their product may be
considered adaptive technology. I contacted my son's caseworker at the county Mental
Health Mental Retardation agency before the purchase and determined what steps I would
need to follow in order to file the claim. As it turned out, the product did qualify as
The touch screen produced by KEYTEC is available in Mac and Windows formats. The Mac
version works with all Performas, Quadras, LCs, and Power Macs. The Windows version works
on any model running Windows version 3.11 or higher, including Windows 95. KEYTEC's sales
staff provide assistance on questions of compatibility and custom set ups. The systems are
similar, but the Windows version has a universal DC power supply plug. The power for the
Mac version comes from the ADB port on the back of the computer.
For me, the computer set up was fairly straightforward. The unit attaches firmly to the
front of my monitor with two small brackets and Velcro. The installation of the software
was also quite standard. You can use a finger or a soft tip pen, which is provided, on the
screen. Following the instructions, I calibrated the screen and was ready to work with our
The company guaranteed that the screen would work with all programs. In general, I
found this to be true, although there are some exceptions. In my son's case, the touch
screen makes my son's computer use more intuitive. Many children's titles have large areas
to click on with the mouse or cursor. This translates into a large area for children to
touch on the screen.
My son has low muscle tone and is imprecise with his fine motor movements, so for us,
this is a favorable feature. Precise accuracy with the screen was possible with the felt
pen, but I found this cumbersome for Bobby. Drag and drop and double clicking (double
touching) are also functions that are available.
In my view, this product opens up the capabilities of the computer for early learning
for all children. My 2 _ year old daughter Julia also enjoys using the
"compeumer" now. My two children can now set side by side and take turns. Try
that with a mouse!
The Magic Touch touch screen is available in many different sizes. Prices range from
$199.00 to $299.00. A touch monitor is also available that has the touch screen
capabilities built into the monitor. Prices range from $725.00 to $1,290.00 for that
product. Lastly, the company also manufactures Touch-Interactive Multimedia Systems that
are complete Windows 95 O/S computers. Prices range from $1,549.00 to $2,699.00. Before
buying the monitors or the complete systems, I caution you to inquire at your appropriate
agency to find out whether these products qualify for reimbursement.
Robert Eckert, the father of a child with autism, lives in Boothwyn,
Pennsylvania with his wife Joanne, daughter Julia, and son Bobby, who attends the Timothy
School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Individuals interested in reaching Robert can do so by
contacting 3126 William Road; Boothwyn, PA 19061; 610-485-1793; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org