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Boy with autism finds his voice thanks to special iPad

Kristine Sorensen
December19/ 2018

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.

No one ever imagined that gift would lead to him actually speaking for himself — a profound effect on Tyler’s whole future.

“We never would have thought in a million years it would go from him receiving that device to him talking now.”

Tyler’s mom, Jen 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 explains.

“It’s a complete miracle 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 thoughts into the device that was speaking for him, I think it actually taught him to speak because he could hear and process what he was thinking  was actually being said.”

Many kids with autism or other disabilities, get an Ipad like this 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 Winfield’s 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 I can talk to,” 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 please, if your child has any speaking challenges and might benefit, reach out to Variety and see if can help you and your child.

Kristine Sorensen

I am proud to work at KDKA-TV -- anchoring the news, hosting Pittsburgh Today Live and doing special reports. I am married to KDKA reporter Marty Griffin and we have 3 children. I first moved to Pittsburgh in 1999 but I’ve lived in Dallas, Johnson City, Tenn., Chicago, Williamsburg, Va., Milwaukee and Winter Park, Fla. Pittsburgh is now the place I call home.

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