As the school year winds down, Christian Chomyn, 7, is starting his summer on a high note.

Christian, who has autism, couldn’t communicate in a meaningful way. But his teachers saw his ability to recognize and respond to images. Now, with the use of an augmented communication device – the Vantage Lite – Christian can express himself.

He hands out the milk in his kindergarten class at Maple Grove Public School in Barrie, likes to tell jokes, and interacts with his teachers and classmates all with the help of the device. More importantly, he can now speak.

“He’s just blown everyone away,” says his mom Christine Chomyn. “We’re just trying to keep up with his successes in the past six months.”

In the past, it’s been difficult for Christian’s friends and family to know what he’s thinking, or what he needs.

“He’s had a lot of struggles. He’s been very hard to communicate with,” says Chomyn.

But thanks to the Vantage Lite, that’s changed. Christian has transitioned from nonverbal to verbal, which means he can advance in school.

Christian just got his in March. It’s the voice he’s been longing for. The touch screen bridges the communication gap that some kids with autism face. Using the picture icons, he can talk to his friends and family.

“He’s able to press the core vocabulary that you would use, such as, ‘I want,’” says special education consultant Sue Ducau. “He’s able to press the icon, which takes him to the next level to be able to describe what he wants.

She says it also helps teachers learn more about what he knows, so they can increase his numeracy and literacy skills, building his success. Meanwhile, for his family, it’s changed everything.

“The conversations are not as in-depth as most kids, but for him it’s a huge step,” says Chomyn.

Christian is also doing better in school, his social skills are improving, and he can do things that weren’t possible a year ago.

“He’s in the right direction, heading the right way,” his mom says. “He can do anything he puts his mind to.”

His teacher says she is excited for Christian, because the device is making him ready for a “more academic experience.”

But for Christian, the best part is that people can finally see just how funny he is.

Because autism affects children in different ways, there are many different approaches to helping them communicate and socialize. For Christian, finding his voice thanks to technology means he’ll be moving into Grade One next year.