Luca Brook lost his powers of speech when he was just 18 months old. Now five, he’s fighting hard to reclaim his words – aided by Satan’s Little Helper, a tablet and some specialist apps.
Four years ago, Luca’s development was more advanced than other kids his age. A lot has changed since then. “At 12 months, Luca’s speech was ahead of his peers,” explains mum Dani Garland. “Six months later, he started to lose his words, avoid eye contact, social interactions and play.” Luca was diagnosed with autism before he turned two. Now five, he is non-verbal. Pre-Covid, Luca was seeing a speech therapist once a week and was in line to get an assessment from TalkLink Trust to get a communications device funded, but the pandemic set that process back by two years. A tablet with a communications app installed on it is vital for Luca, as it allows him to talk to others, convey his emotions and ask for simple things. “We were hoping he’d have a device to start school with,” says Dani, who turned to HELL Pizza’s Satans Little Helper program as a last resort. When the Satan’s Little Helper team heard how much a tablet would turn Luca’s life around, it jumped at the chance to help and bought him one. “Before he had the tablet, he had a laminate communication board with a few options; he had to carry it everywhere,” says Dani. “The tablet gives him so many more options; he can be more precise and can use it to make full sentences, as it speaks for him. “It really is amazing. He used it a couple of days ago to say what he wanted for the first time – a glass of water. That brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye! “Before, he’d just lead us to what he wanted and get frustrated when we couldn’t understand him, which would lead to meltdowns – something you really want to avoid with autistic children. He hasn’t had one since he got the app, because his communication is so much better. He’s a lot happier and he’s more confident, because he knows he can chat.” School is helping him, too. Luca has fallen in love with music and art. He really enjoys playing the drums and piano, and was able to complete a term and a half’s worth of music therapy in just five weeks. Luca’s other passion is space, nourished by National Geographic videos on YouTube. When Dani mentioned that to Satan’s Little Helper, the team sent a 40mm telescope along with the tablet. “He uses it every night, it’s part of his routine,” says Dani. Outside of music and star-gazing, Luca enjoys cooking, animals and exploring outdoors. Thanks to his new powers of communication, the little man can share more of his passions with his family. We couldn’t be happier for them!