Living with Autism
Meet Lisa Domican, mother of two children Grace, 12, and Liam, 13, who both have Autism – a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates. Lisa adores her kids and loves spending time with them. Unfortunately for her communication with her children can frustrating due to the nature of their disability.
That was until Lisa invented Grace App – an application that helps children with autism communicate using pictures on an iphone or ipad.
The app is divided in to categories and sub-categories such as clothes, colours, food and the ‘my body’ app – which users can select ‘sore’ and ‘knee’ – to indicate where it hurts. The app is now an indispensable tool which allows her children to communicate more freely.
But the app has not only helped Lisa and her family– it has also helped the 14,000 plus users who have downloaded it since its launch. “Before Grace App we used to have to bring hundreds of picture cards everywhere, now it’s all stored on my phone,” explains Lisa. “When a child trips over its not ethical to run back to the house to get the cards so they can show you were it hurts, you need to give them a hug and comfort them.”
A recent finalist for the 2011 Social Impact Programme run by Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, Lisa embodies the term ‘supermum’ though she immediately laughs off this suggestion.
“I’ve worked harder then I’ve worked in my entire life this summer trying to develop the app further but I’m not a supermum,” she says. “My kids have super abilities and I’ve had to develop super abilities to match them, that’s all!” she adds. “One of the things with autism and communication is that they don’t understand that if they’re in pain they need to tell you about it.
“When Liam was younger he used to get a lot of tonsillitis. I’d take him to the doctor and the doctor would say you should have brought him in a week ago, and would treat me like a bad mum.
“Gracey can’t talk so I had to use pictures. But if she fell when the picture book wasn’t there it was frustrating. Then I realised something I always had with me was my phone.”
But it was when a friends son ended up in Intensive Care with a burst appendix one Christmas that Lisa realised she needed to do something. “I thought I have to make this app, because this can’t keep happening. The child had been demented with pain but he had no way of saying it.
“It’s not that these kids don’t feel pain but they don’t know how important it is to tell you about it.
Originally fromMelbourne, Australia, Lisa is married to Bill Domican, from Tallaght, CoDublin. The family lived inQueenslanduntil they settled in Greystones, Co Wicklow ten years ago. A typical day back then?
“Going from one thing to another!” says Lisa. “It was mad. My husband was job training in theUK. He was away five days a week and only coming back at the weekends – so I was on my own with them.”
But there are rewarding sides to having children like Lisa’s.
“Liam loves films and animals and both Gracey and Liam both love playing on the computer.
“Liam also has an extraordinary memory and can watch the credits for a film and type them out on my iPhone afterwards. He’s a very clever boy.” Despite this, the devoted mum has had to deal with her fair share of social stigma.
“You do get dirty looks from people who think you just can’t control your child when they’re bumping into other children in the playground. One time Liam accidentally bumped into an older man coming out of a café who slapped him. I completely lost the plot when that happened!”
Both of Lisa’s children now attend Saplings school in Rathfarnam, a school which caters specifically for children with autism. “Despite the difficulties, I wouldn’t swap my kids for the world,” says Lisa. “They’ve taught me that anything is possible.”
You can download Grace App from iTunes for €30. For more information on Grace App go to www.graceapp.com or write a question on the Facebook wall at www.facebook.com/GraceApp or email firstname.lastname@example.org