Joshua's a flash talker now
SEVEN-year-old Joshua Toben may have to live with autism, but if his dedicated parents have their way, he won't have to suffer from it.
When Joshua's dad, Anthony, last spoke to The Northern Star in September, he and young computer whiz, Conner Brenish, now 18, had just finished developing their iSpoke Flash Cards app - specifically designed to help Joshua learn and communicate.
Three months later the results speak for themselves.
"Joshua's probably got close to two or three hundred words in his vocabulary now - and we're actually getting functional speech from him," Anthony said.
"He can now look at us, put two or three words together and ask for juice, which is huge.
"We're lucky enough that he is a really happy little boy but he gets his own real sense of satisfaction when he says something or can communicate to us - it makes us really happy too."
And now, other parents and teachers are taking notice.
Following a segment on the Today Show last week, inquiries for Anthony and Conner's iSpoke Flash Cards app have been pouring in from all over the country.
And Joshua's school in Lismore, Wilsons Park School, has been fielding inquiries from other schools and prospective parents.
"Wilsons Park is just a brilliant school - I told the Today crew that the principal, Helen, would be at the front door welcoming all the kids, like she does every morning," he said.
"They said 'Principals don't do that' and there she was."
While Anthony insists it is the work of Joshua's carers and teachers that underpins his development, the app has become a valuable tool for them.
"Joshua can literally make his own picture, record his own voice, and click on, say, a picture of a glass of juice, hold it up to the person and it will say 'I want a juice please'," Anthony said.
"While his vocabulary has expanded dramatically, it's all the work his mum, his sister Shoshanah, 9, and the teachers at Wilson Park School do for him.
"The work that his mum puts in is just unbelievable, everyone works really hard, so you can't say it's all from the iSpoke, it's the hours of everyone working with him.
"We also have a speech therapist and an occupational therapist - but the major issue for us now is that funding for disabled kids stops when they are seven - that was another motivation."
Anthony and Conner are working on more apps and their first commercial project building an application for a Sydney teacher.
"I'm just lucky I've got Conner with me ... a young genius who is also aware of what this does for not only Joshua but other children - he's just finished his HSC so he's been studying for that as well as helping me," Anthony said.