By Tony Langfellow

STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) – The Kiwanis Club of Stevens Point is joining a program to help get iPads to kids on the autism spectrum. The project initially started in 2012 and is called the ‘Wisconsin-Upper Michigan Kiwanis Autism Project,’ and now the Kiwanis Club of Stevens Point is joining the mission to get iPads to kids. “Kiwanis is based on helping youth and so everything we do is based around that,” Stevens Point Kiwanis Club Secretary Mike Schmidt said.

Schmidt said getting iPads to kids with autism is a must, as a way to help with those struggling in school. “Autism is obviously a very significant issue in the educational system across the country but if we can help here that’s one big step, or at least one small step toward a bigger problem,” Schmidt said. “There is no one child that is the same,” former Wisconsin-Upper Michigan Kiwanis District Governor Lynn Messer said.

Messer was the Wisconsin Upper-Michigan Kiwanis District Governor in 2012 when he saw a 60 minutes segment about helping autistic children get iPads, that’s when his idea took off. Since he started the project, the program has provided over 1,200 iPads to kids. “There was a question that came out, how quick do these children adapt to the iPad?” Messer said. “Just ask a therapist, it’s instant, even for a two year old, they know how to communicate with

Stevens Point Kiwanis Club presented their first iPad in early February to 6-year-old Ava Knecht.

“We got a call one day indicating that she was selected, and that Kiwanis had been able to raise enough funds to be able to support her,” Ava’s mom Jenn Knecht said.

Ava has autism with language disorders, the iPad helps integrate her better in school and communicate with family and friends.

“Having those supports, it’s helped to support her development in general so she’s able to produce a lot of those things on her own now versus needing the device, so it just helps with the development of her language overall,” Knecht said.

Knecht said getting the iPad from Kiwanis is an important step for keeping Ava in the classroom as much as possible.

Information on how to register for a grant can be found here.