a ding in the universe 

The world lost a great visionary last night.


And the autism community lost a hero.

I heard one of the talking heads on television last night say, “Well, in some ways he wasn’t the best CEO. He wasn’t really so good at interacting with people.” I couldn’t help it; I laughed. Firstly, of course, because I live in Autismland – a place in which not being ‘so good at interacting with people’ is kinda the norm.
But secondly, I laughed because the idea is pretty preposterous, isn’t it? That Steve Jobs wasn’t so good at interacting with people? Really?
How many people do we typically interact with in a day? A month? A year? A lifetime?
Steve Jobs interacted in some way with Every. Last. One. Of. Us. And in so doing, he changed the face of … well, everything. But that’s just the beginning. What his tools did, do and will continue to do for people with autism? Language, connection, escape, freedom, access. I don’t know where to begin.
I wrote the following in January of 2010. I called it ‘An Unlikely Love Letter’. It was addressed to the man who gave my family freedom. If I’d written it more recently, it would have included a whole additional universe of education, interaction, communication, independence and ACCESS for individuals with autism – the iPad.
Steve once said, “I want to put a ding in the universe.” I hope as he closed his eyes last night, he left us knowing that he did. He sure as hell did.
An Unlikely Love Letter, originally published on Diary January 4, 2010

Mr Steve Jobs

Apple Headquarters

Cupertino, CA


Dear Mr Jobs,

My name is Jess and I have something that I’ve been wanting to tell you for a while now.

I think I love you.

Now, I know you probably get a lot of this – crazed fans writing in to tell you that you’ve altered the world through technology. I can’t argue with them. What you have done to shove us all headlong into the information age has been nothing short of revolutionary. Your leadership and innovation have changed the way we view – well, just about everything we do. Guttenberg had nothing on you, sir.

Oh, and taking just $1 in yearly compensation EVERY YEAR since your return to the company in ’97? Classy move, my friend. Classy move. And handing well over 3,000 percent return to investors during your tenure without selling a share of stock? Be still my heart.

You’re my husband’s hero. As such, you’d think this letter would have come from him. He’s Mac-obsessed. If it has a little ‘i’ in front of it he either has it, wants it, or is waiting for the next generation of it. I’ve caught him caressing his iPhone when he thinks no one’s looking. OK, I made that up – but Steve – is it OK if I call you Steve? I mean, it just kind of seems right to call a guy in a turtle-neck and jeans Steve – it wouldn’t be far-fetched. Hell, the guy gets MacWorld Magazine. And READS it. Not for nothing, but you know you’ve made it when there’s a MAGAZINE dedicated to your products. I mean seriously, that’s cool.

But, Steve, much as I like the MacBook that I’m typing on right now, as happy as I am with my iPhone and as much as I love browsing through iTunes for music, there’s one thing and one thing alone that sets my heart a-flutter for you.

You, sir have given my daughter freedom.

You see Steve, my daughter has autism. And for her, the world can get pretty damned overwhelming. For a long time, my girl couldn’t really go anywhere comfortably – certainly not to a restaurant. It was hard, Steve. Sometimes it was really hard.

But last night, we went to our local sushi joint for dinner with friends. We were later than we’d hoped to be and the place was pretty full. Full means loud, Steve. And loud can mean disaster. But we didn’t have to leave. Not once. Nope, my girl sat at the table with everyone else and ate her dinner.

Because now – thanks to you, she has a powerful tool to mitigate the madness. When it gets to be too much, she can reach into her dad’s pocket and say, “I will listen to my music now.” No matter where we are, she can slip on her headphones, plug into her iPod and retreat into a world that’s much more inviting and hospitable than the one around her. The nerve-wracking clang and clatter of her surroundings melts away into Godspell, Dora the Explorer , JoJo and The Beatles.

She’s even (mostly) learned not to sing along in public. Trust me, Steve, that’s bigger than you think.

And so, I wanted you to know that you have one more thing to add to your already mind-boggling resume. Pixar may have changed special effects for all time. Wonderful – I like a good flick as much as the next girl. The iMac no doubt dramatically altered home computing. My home movies thank you. And the iPhone certainly radically shifted the face of mobility. All great.

But it was a tiny green iPod that unlocked the world for one little girl.

And her mama is forever in your debt.

Keep up the good work, Steve.





172 thoughts on “a ding in the universe 

  1. Well said Jess! And then came the ipad. It revolutionized special education software. Kids are learning and doing more because of the simple elegant user interface. What a gift he was to us. RIP

  2. An absolutely amazing man and an amazing visionary who was too young to die. He will be sorely missed. Thanks for sharing this.

    Love you,

  3. Pingback: The loss of a visionary Steve Jobs 1955-2011 | The Aspie Side of Life

  4. I think a lot of people who aren’t immersed in the special education world have no idea how much the iPad is used by kids in our world. Just last week, I went to a little gathering of ASD moms (and one dad), speech pathologists and OTs where we shared our favorite apps. My family mostly uses our iPad for games and distraction. I was blown away by the other apps that people showed off. There were at least 3 women almost in tears with gratitude for their iPad and Proloquo. The stories they were telling had the rest of us in tears.

    Thank you, Steve.

  5. When I read the news last night, I had to stop to take a moment to process. A few things ran through my head at once: A touch of sadness at the thought of the world without steve continuing to tinker in his parent’s garage (’cause lets face it, he’s has been doing something like that for the last 40 years or so). Abundant happiness that the we got share in steve’s dreams and ideas; and finally the hope that we all learned a little something from him (I would imagine that what he gave, was a little different for each and every one of us). And through it all was Billy Joel’s song: “Only The Good Die Young”. I truly believe that Steve experienced life to the fullest without too much regret, and a whole lot of pride at what he gave to the world.

  6. The iPad and it’s apps showed us just what our Boy knows and is capable of learning. This month we start using Proloquo2go to communicate. I’m grateful for the square peg in the round hole.

  7. and now I am crying all over again. It’s not just this man’s visions and products that changed me, but his words too (as shown above) He leaves knowing that with every product he was changing lives. My kids’ lives. It’s rare that a person gets to know their legacy before they leave us, but thanks to your letter and the love from the special needs community, I know that he can rest easy

  8. Well to his company and board of directors who he made quite wealthy, sure…he wasent a good CEO. To faux news and the rest of corporate America, on paper he wasent a good CEO. But to the rest of us fanboys out there who work on macs, play on macs and watch our kids communicate, grow and learn on devices he created…he was a god among men. Rest in peace.

  9. I have a poster hanging in the family room in my house. Who is on the poster is kind of irrelevant. What *is* relevant is that in the upper corner there is a rainbow-striped apple and the words “Think different.”

    I chased down that poster a long time ago. Long before iPods and iPads. Long before the iPhone. Long before I had kids. Long before I had a kid with autism. Those words and the man behind them have obviously gained a lot of importance in the years between the day I bought that poster and now.

    Thinking different? That is everything to us. And to the man behind the Mac computers in my house and the iPhone, iPods, and iPad in my purse? We will miss you. Not just because you were a brilliant tech leader or because you helped people who needed it, but because you *saw* us and you knew that we mattered.

  10. Pingback: A Footprint….A ripple…what’s your impact? « Footprints in Time

  11. Pingback: Thinking outside the box | TheOtherSide ofNormal

  12. “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful” Steve Jobs….. and he has done something wonderful he put a ding in the universe!

  13. It brings me so much joy to see you speak of Steve in this light. He is an inspiration to us all. Since a young boy I’ve dreamed of meeting him.

  14. Pingback: Steve Jobs will be Missed | Ancil Jones' Blog

  15. A very touching and well-thought-out post. Steve Jobs has done many things in his life, most of which many of us will probably never even realize. Your suggestion that he has touched each of us in some way is right on the button; or the touchscreen, as it were.

  16. Your love letter and post brought me to tears–I’m currently sitting in my cubicle at work sniffling and hoping nobody comes by and notices that one, I’m reading blogs at work and two, I’m crying my eyes out for a man I’ve never met–yet, like you said, he has touched all of us. This was beautifully written and I hope he read your letter. Thank you for sharing this.

  17. That’s a lovely post and beautiful letter. Thanks for sharing and congratulations on being freshly pressed; it’s well deserved for such a heartfelt post.

  18. Hey.

    I’m one of the staff here at WordPress.com, and I also have a son with autism. I’ve seen the effects of technology on how he learns and focuses and I too know that Apple technology has made huge strides in this area. My wife reads your blog and posted a link to this post. I loved it so much and found it to be such a unique tribute that I thought it should be featured on Freshly Pressed today.

    Thank you for writing from your heart.

  19. I have often felt as you did: in love with Steve Jobs.No, not THAT way, but in feeling so overwhelmed by the ideas the man had, and the knowledge of how to execute them.

    When I heard he had left Apple I felt compelled to learn more about him, so I did some research. Did you know that he was adopted as a baby? That was a real surprise. Also, that he spent years trying to find a half sibling, and finally did: Mona Simpson. She is a best selling author, and dedicated her 1992 novel, “Anywhere But Here” to “Joanne, our mother, and my brother Steve.”

    I am so sad that he won’t have the time to enjoy the experience of seeing his children grow up….

    Thank you for your beautiful tribute.


  20. Wow,

    Rarely am I moved to write anyone who isn’t writing fiction,. but your post sincerely moved me. The letter? What can I say other than, “Ah, are the tissues?”

    Thank you for taking the time to post this piece about a man, we will not forget. At least I know I won’t. Hell, every damn piece of tech I own that helps me (like your daughter) get through the day, has got his signature on it!!!


  21. Good Bles You all from the Croatia …
    One of the greatest man in the planet sad bye bye to us but we will never forget You Steve …
    Steve RIP ! You make us proud !!

  22. Pingback: Steve Jobs |

  23. When I first saw something about Steve Jobs being dead, I honestly thought it was a joke, or a jab at him for resigning. Then I read the post, and was honestly surprised. Despite being an android user, I can say this man will be missed.

  24. Dearest Steve. I wrote a college behavioral study on you buddy. Back in the late 80’s. You were my hero then. You are still my hero today. All the other young women were thinking about Kevin Costner. I was thinking about you and the way you began a revolution for the common man, way back in that garage in silicon valley. What a life. What a human being.

  25. As I read your post your words inspire a vision of the world as an Apple with a giant bite Missing, you post made it clear that missing bite is for sure Steve Jobs. “Every. Last. One. Of. Us” I Agree,well said!-WATW

  26. So eloquently written! I’m an adult with “High-Functioning Adult Autism.” Just a fancy phrase meaning I have just a tiny bit of autism.
    But even that tiny bit restricts my social and work life. There are many social things I Just Dont Get!
    Anyway, Rave On, with your wonderful little girl and her Apple products.

    Until now, I’ve never thought of tech-people as heros. It’s always been rock musicians for me. Now I see another kind of hero who frees us just as much as, say, The Beatles. (How funny, the decades-long legal fight between The Fabs and Apple!)

    Cheer to you and your family

    Will Travis

  27. It saddens us all to loose such a man-one who followed his dreams. Thank you Steve Jobs for such as the Ipad-I love it!

  28. it was such an original letter, i read the news in the morning and my tear was swimming around my eyes, i miss him.

  29. I had goose bumps and tingles along my spine as I read your piece. KUDOS!!! JOB well done.
    I have a five years old son who is Autistic. I know exactly how you feel and if I could give Mr. Jobs a hug before he died I would. What he has given us, including my family is irreplaceable. I write poems as seen through the eyes of my five years old son and in one of my poems I mentioned Iphone and Ipad. Hands down two of the best inventions ever!!!
    Have a look, I’m sure that we have alot in common. Congrats on being FP!! http://jacquirose17.wordpress.com

  30. Your post moved me to tears. How wonderful. Who would have thought a piece of technology – and the man behind it – could change lives in such a profound way. God bless you and yours. And thanks, Steve Jobs, for the ding in the universe.

  31. Oh my god that letter is so heart touching and amazing that one man with a brilliant idea, many miles away can change a lite girls life. Thank you for sharing this with us, in a way it brightened my day, especially your ‘straight to the point’ kind of talking.

    : )

  32. What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing the best eulogy / tribute to Steve Jobs I’ve read. I’m glad you were Freshly Pressed today! – MoSop

  33. Pingback: ::Homenagem a Steve Jobs:: « Mineirinha n'Alemanha

  34. With all the “eulogies” for Steve Jobs posted on the internet since last night, this is one post that definitely stands out among the rest. Most people thanked Steve for the technology they’re currently using that makes their life more convenient and entertaining. You have shown me that this technology is helping people live their lives with less struggle. God bless to you and your family!

  35. A very thought-provoking and compelling post… and very deserving of freshly pressed status. Thanks very much for sharing this.

  36. I loved this post. I wrote about Mr. Jobs today. We just lost greatness. I hope another great is born to this generation.

  37. This brilliant man did so much for me personally. I assure all of you, Mr. Jobs made contributions to the arts none of us could ever imagine. If you only knew how many soundtracks for motion pictures were done and could have only been done on his machines you would fall down. Mr. Jobs will go down in history like an Edison or a Bell. What I love most of all, he didn’t have a formal education and contributed more than all American Education ever will! Great men are born, Great thinkers can never be taught what to think or how. Steve Jobs was an original.

  38. Very inspiring and moving letter and comments. Steve Jobs has given many people amazing creative freedom. Also, the Mac is more than a machine, it is a creativity maker and it is beautiful. Thanks

  39. Awesome – great story, Josh (14 with Asperger’s) got an iPad for his birthday this year – before that he rarely (and even then only if absolutely had to) used the computer – the iPad has opened a whole new world for him – he is forever showing us the pictures of his favorite things that he finds! Keep on blogging! cheers Paul

  40. Pingback: “A Ding In The Universe” « ::::Electr0hed::::

  41. In the last 24 hours I have seen a lot of posts, videos and articles about the passing of Steve Jobs where people say his claim to fame was overrated. Obviously there’s no respect even in death, but the guy took something that was essentially going to be thrown out and, over the years, developed and marketed some of the most useful communication and computing technologies the world has ever known.

    Selfishness is the only explanation for behavior like this.

    RIP, Steve Jobs, and Fare thee well.

  42. Pingback: My lunch with Steve « Simple Bytes

  43. ‘Hey, I’m new here and I also wrote a tribute for Steve Jobs earlier this morning. Can you just support me? It would really mean a lot. thanks! ‘

    Great post by the way. This is such a nice tribute to the person who truly changed youth.
    He will be sorely missed…

  44. Pingback: RIP Steve Jobs! « Jaya's Fashion World

  45. Pingback: Thank you Steve. « Leopard Creations

  46. Jess, my son has dyspraxia and can neither print nor write. For years teachers have been struggling to accommodate him. This year he started grade four with an iPad. I don’t need to tell you what it feels like to see your child suddenly experiencing success. I too, will be forever in Steve Jobs debt. Thanks for writing this!

  47. What an amazing post. Its funny to think that I didn’t even think he had left as much of an impact on me until I realised that as I was reading this post, I was using a Macbook. When I broke up with a girlfriend in 2009 I purchased this thing and it helped me to journal the thoughts that were going on through my head, to write Songs through Garageband and ultimately to be able to share my life and journey with many people that I never thought I would’ve been able to reach. Your inventions have helped me and though I don’t know you, the parts of your brain that clashed together to create this idea have greatly eased the way I live. Today I am able to capture memories with my iPhone, store them on my Macbook and create music through Garageband. Thank you for these inventions. You have made my life a bit simpler. I’m Praying for peace and comfort for your family and for those whom you have left behind.


  48. Pingback: A ding in the universe « Immortal Diamond

  49. The greatness of a man is not defined by what he has invented or achieved..it is most certainly defined by how many lives he has touched…
    And your beautiful letter sure has added to the greatness of Steve Jobs!
    keep rocking!! \m/

  50. Thank you for the lovely posting about Steve Jobs. I am sensitive to people with Autism because we have a disabled daughter. She is highly functioning but her brain was fried in the hospital from Vaccines as a premie. So many of our autistic children are this way because of vaccines. We have our daughter on a number of liquid vitamins (tastes like juice) that is playing a huge role in helping her immune system and health. Would love to chat with you sometime and now following your blog. You can email me directly at: disclosure.nz@gmail.com Cheers, James

  51. Lovely post – for me it really emphasised the different kinds of impact Steve Jobs and his vision had on so many people, across all sorts of experiences… what a loss.

  52. Pingback: Of Ipods and Steve Jobs | Daddy's Pen

  53. Such sincere words and a really wonderful post. We never knew him but like you said he touched our lives. My 3 year old learned her shapes, colors, numbers and the alphabet through the iPad and as days go by she is learning more and more through it. My 75 year old mom who can’t stand anything to do with technology now sends my nephews and nieces abroad messages through my iPad. I am glad Steve Jobs also made a ding in your life in such a beautiful, meaningful way. He will surely be missed.

  54. Steve,

    Not to believe, after so many have done for the world,
    brought this sad news of your departure.
    Everyone will miss you. Pain was not weird,
    you have done more than currieth.
    My sincere condolences to your family and friends.
    With compassion and strength Suzy Krekels Hugo Lindekens.

  55. One of the most incredible man who’s ever lived. He has done so much for the world to change so drastically. Everywhere you look, you see people with Ipods, Iphones, Macs…. and I think of how much impact he’s put all over! This man is truly amazing and I just can’t believe he’s gone. Rest in peace, Steve Jobs. In iHeaven.

    Great post, by the way. It brought a touch in my heart and I am deeply in sorrow of how this man is now gone. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago, she broke down but still kept believing that God would make a way. A pastor from the local church gave my mom a white box thing. It was an iPod and it was the very first one she’d ever had. Each time she was feeling hopeless, she’d just plug the earphones in and worship to the music. 4 years after, she passed away. The iPod’s still with me and I keep it close to my heart knowing that that small device had helped her live long enough. My mom and this great man have gone home to be with the Lord. I will miss you guys both 😦

  56. Steve Jobs was absolutely AWESOME. I wanted to express to him and the World what he had done for my son. He brought inclusion in our lives when the EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM rejected my son extraordinary mind, unique ability, and muti-intelligence learning style. We never felt alone. Through his walk with cancer he strengthen the path for me. On September 5th I wrote A BITE OF THE APPLE_A TRIBUTE TO STEVE JOBS. In my heart I did not want to say GOODBYE but HELLO and to let him know the MOMENT IS NOW. I would like for you to go to http://nldrecognition.wordpress.com and read my HELLO to STEVE JOBS. On October 5th STEVE JOBS path led him to the APPLE HALL OF FAME.

  57. i am one of the “geeky” girl in school that is always teased of being brainaic and having no life other than my novels and iGadgets. you are my hero and i always keep it my mind that it is the GEEK that rules in the end. It is not the popular jocks, the hunk magnet cheerleaders nor the sweet talking org leaders, but geeks. It is so true, just look at STEVE JOBS. Do i need to say more?


  58. “When it gets to be too much, she can reach into her dad’s pocket and say, “I will listen to my music now.” No matter where we are, she can slip on her headphones, plug into her iPod and retreat into a world that’s much more inviting and hospitable than the one around her. The nerve-wracking clang and clatter of her surroundings melts away into Godspell, Dora the Explorer , JoJo and The Beatles.”

    I am so happy for you.. and the light you put his accomplishments in, is dazzling. I’ll always respect him more, remembering this — how the technology he invented has changed aleast one person’s world, for the better.

    Aun Aqui

  59. I loved reading your tribute to Steve (yes, he does seem like a guy we should all be on first name terms with – after all, he has touched all our lives, knowingly or otherwise, directly or indirectly). Whilst my husband was recovering from brain surgery, he used many iPad apps to help regain his mental and cognitive agility as well as dexterity. The Apple brand has done much to advance technology in the mainstream but has valuable tools for those with additional needs. Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts and letter to Steve.
    Here is my tribute: http://annamongan.com/2011/10/06/steve-jobs-how-to-live-before-you-die/

  60. Jess, your gratitude to a great mind is wonderful to behold. We too often fail to rwalize our full potential, nor to appreciate how significantly individual choices we make throughout life can alter the course of human history. Your letter is a testament to that. Well done.

  61. What a warm tribute Jess. Please stop reading your letter once in a while because it will just put you in tears. Especially that Steve Jobs has already left us. Well, you know he is just still here and there are millions of stories to prove that. Yours is the first. Travel well and smile my friend because what you did is universal.

  62. I usually speed-read through freshly pressed, but your post was different…so different that I had to slow down and absorb every word that came in. Refreshingly honest!

  63. Hi Jess,

    I’m embarrassed to say that I know very little about Steve Jobs. I had heard that he was a jerk to work for which soured me…. having worked for some real jerks in my career! OK, the guy came up with some snazzy technology. But the iPod isn’t the only portable music player on the market. Nor do I think the technology would never have reached us had it not been for Apple.

    I’m glad I read your blog because I hadn’t thought about the contributions he made to special education. I also didn’t know that he only pulled a salary of $1 — something the Wall Street protestors would like to see more rich CEOs do.

    Thanks for opening my eyes to a bigger picture view of this business icon.


  64. This was so beautifully written. I don’t think I was aware of how much Apple products have helped people. I also didn’t know a lot about Steve Jobs until I started reading a couple of days ago. He was truly an extraordinary person.

    This was so touching. I’m glad you wrote it to him so that he knew the impact he had before it was too late. 🙂

  65. Great post! I always wondered how parents of autistic kids manage with the tantrums and all. I used your letter in my post I hope you don’t mind.


  66. Pingback: Day 279 –  Steve Jobs – Here’s to the Crazy Ones….. « Life with Lizzi

  67. My 14 year old with Aspergers, whose life has been significantly impacted by Steve Jobs’ brilliance, came to me Thurs morning and said “iSad”. I said “iSad 2”.
    My son’s iTouch is his lifeline. I don’t know how kids managed before without this technology!
    On another note, my son made a friend in his summer program, A teenager with severe autism. When school started he searched for his friend and was thrilled when he finally found him. I asked “how did it go with Kevin?” He said, “Kevin is a man of few words. And, you know what, so am I so it went good.”! I love my kid!

  68. I don’t know where to start with this comment. I write it as tears literally are streaming down my face. I have an autistic nephew, he is now in his 20’s but I remember those younger days when noise and disorder turned into disaster.

    I too wrote a tribute to Steve Jobs (http://paisleypersective.com) and I too am writing this comment on a MBP. My history with Mac began in college when I peeped at this new technology in the mid 1980’s. Move to 2004 when I finally purchased my first Apple product in the form of an iPod nano.

    Everyone has their own beliefs but I know that Steve Jobs was our Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Wright Brothers, or Albert Einstein. He let the world know what you can do if you believe and keep to good design principles.

  69. how touching and how well put! Things that we do not think about and I thank you for sharing your story and letter with us and making us aware of the impact our world has on children with autism. thank you, thank you. On another note, I think the people who liked Mac’s and Apple from the beginning (our family is one of them – Mac users forever), are simply fanatical – no other way to describe us (my husband is a Graphic Designer and Database designer and Apple is his religion!)

    Wonderful post!

  70. (Huh, WordPress apparently didn’t publish my comment the day I actually wrote it. Pfft. Whatever, you know how I feel.)

    So grateful that there are technologies to help each of our children in their unique needs. I am still amazed daily at the impact the iPad has had on Nik. Life changing is an understatement. And to think I used to scoff at Apple… HA!

  71. Many don’t even realize the gift Steve Job’s gave to the world….we take for granted all the amazing things he has created. And its funny…for me being 23, to see that as I post on Facebook about the death of the apple founder, not one person between the ages of 16-20 had anything to say. I can still remember going to 3rd grade and seeing the new “cool” computers with the blue and green colors, instead of the boring old windows computers. And now that little bit of creativity and inspiration has developed into IPhones, IPads, and what IMacs are today. It makes me sad to think that the youth has no concept of what this man has done for technology.

  72. Beautiful post! Thanks for sharing. Having been a respite carer for autism kids in the pre i-device world, I can only imagine how much better their worlds are with them, walls must just be crashing down and giant steps being taken.

  73. Pingback: Thanks, Steve « Get Social

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