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Dec 12, 2011 8:28 PM by Matt Stafford

7-year-old on a mission for a tablet computer

UPDATE:  Just after this story ran on News 5 at 6 p.m., the Beems had already received an outpuring of support to help Alex get his iPad.  His mother, Heather, is now working on ideas to help other children in a similar situation as Alex; who don't qualify for support because of the amount of need for non-verbal children with autism.  Heather can be reached by email at beemingstars@gmail.com.

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A local family is going through the same thing a lot of people are right now; the kids are asking for something this Christmas that's just too expensive for the budget. However, for this family - with a child with autism - they're finding that the iPad is a big help to their son, Alex.

Alex Beem first got to use an iPad at summer camp, and he loved it.

"It's grown from there," says his mother, Heather Beem. But the family doesn't have one; they have an iPod that he's been using at home.

"I used to have an iPod Touch; I don't have one anymore," says Heather, jokingly. "Alex now has it, all the apps are his. I do my banking on there, that's about all he lets me do."

That's mainly because Alex is a ball of energy with an appetite for science.

"You can study on land animals, you can study on space...," Alex lists, along with several other interests of his.

So it shouldn't be a surprise what's on this soon-to-be-8-year-old's Christmas list.

"He wants a real doctor's lab coat, and that iPad," says Heather.

The only problem is that the iPad is looking tough to get.

"400, 500, and 600 bucks for an iPad, and that's just something that's so way out of our budget," says Heather, and adding that it's tough to explain when they go to the store.

"It's disappointment every time."

So, are Alex's holiday dreams crushed? Absolutely not! He was given the idea to collect cans to raise money, and now he's a man on a mission. His mom is thrilled because she says it can help a lot with his autism; she says writing is tough for Alex.

"His brain doesn't process ‘stay between the lines', ‘make the capitals this big', ‘make the lower case only half the width of the line'," says Heather.

"They can have them available readily, they're not bulky..." Sandra Ruvalcaba, program director for the Alpine Autism Center in Colorado Springs says they've gotten a lot of use out of the tablet computer for their students.

"It does help with the communication piece," says Ruvalcaba, but because of resources and need she says they typically go to non-verbal students with autism first. However, she says that if a student like Alex benefited from the technology, then they would try to get one for him.

Heather has tried to find groups to help too, but she's only finding the resources to help the non-verbal children; Alex doesn't qualify. Heather understands that those children have a greater need than her son, but she sees how much it helps him too and wants to have the opportunity to try it out.

None of that is stopping Alex; he thinks he'll have enough cans by Christmas to buy one. Mom likes the optimism.

"He really believes that he can do it, and I want to support that; I think that's an amazing quality... to not know that there are limits out there."

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