These days technology and learning go hand-in-hand. An app is helping a little boy with autism connect with his family and the world around him, but the learning program that goes along with it is expensive.
It costs a lot to certify and train specialists. For children who depend on Medicaid, the state doesn’t reimburse the entire cost, but one Las Vegas valley mother wants to change that and says her son is the best proof the program works.
Albert Diaz likes the same things a lot of 9-year-old kids like -- hamburgers, swimming and SpongeBob.
But unlike other 9-year-olds, he just started speaking within the last year. Albert’s mother, Valerie Soto, worried she would never hear him say a single word.
“His first word was at 8 years old,” Soto said. “When I was told he would never talk."
Albert has autism and has been non-verbal most of his life, but once his mother and teachers realized he was a visual learner who quickly picks up on words and their spellings when he sees pictures, it was a game changing moment.
"Ever since then it’s no turning back,” Soto said.
With the help of a $300 app and months of work with a registered behavioral technician, one day he stunned his mother.
"So we were driving down the road one day and he didn’t have his device and he screamed out milkshake!”
Albert typically uses his iPad to speak for him, but he can now say nearly a dozen words. However, because the learning program is so expensive, he hasn't moved on to a new one.
On Tuesday, his mother took him to Carson City and showed lawmakers what he can do, hoping to convince them to increase autism education funding.
"To have him now form some words ... that's my dream,” she said. “And to have a program on hold because he is a Medicaid recipient and the state wants to argue about money ... the one who is affected is him."
Because of the advances Albert has made, his mother said she sees him completing his education and holding down a job someday in the future.