Have a quick search on the app store, or internet, you will find there are loads of apps and services out there to support users with additional needs, but they are often very expensive, have limited function and content, or they are generic ‘one size fits all’ apps. Any parent, of any child with additional needs, can tell you that budgets are already restricted, and they cannot justify spending large sums of money on something that is okay, but not quite right. Why should this kind of support be so expensive? Why should the person fit the app? Why can’t the app fit the person?
With products and services that support users with special educational needs and disabilities, parents, carers, teachers and healthcare professionals often ask, “but why you?” or “why is this service important?”. After all, when it comes to products and services in the world of SEND, we are working with individuals who require a high level of patience, understanding and knowledge. You wouldn’t want just anyone supporting you. So, why us?
The idea of implementing our ‘My SEND’ App software, within the world of support for SEND, started as the pipe dream of one of our product developers, Dani.
After her son was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 2, she dedicated her life to making the world a better place for people with similar challenges to her son. She took every opportunity for training and educated herself on a wide variety of additional needs and support techniques. Dani quickly became frustrated with the support methods commonly used within the world of SEND and found that much of the support material provided was in the form of printed and laminated paper. Parents and carers were encouraged to build their own bespoke support material, but Dani felt there was too much restriction, a distinct lack of engagement and that the methods were often outdated, difficult to manage and to keep organised. Why couldn’t parents or carers build social stories, visual timetables and PECS all in one place? Why couldn’t it be in an app?
Any parent of a child with sensory requirements, or special educational needs can tell you that individuals can have very specific requirements to engage with something. How something looks and feels, can make the difference between it being used, or being ignored. This was one of our main focuses from the very first bespoke app, which belonged to Dani’s son when he was just 6 years old. His favourite colour is red and if things aren’t red, he doesn’t like to use them – choosing the colour scheme was the very first step in our process, something she had never been able to specify within a support app. Using her own photos, videos and audio files, she was able to put together a private, bespoke app, made with exactly the right content for her son. When she completed the app, it included information to encourage his special interests: local weather, maps and time related topics, such as live count downs to important dates and family birthdays. It also included practical preparation material, such as information about a new family pet and a section for her son to make submissions to say how he was feeling. Every written instruction, every picture, every video, and every link, made exactly to her son’s requirements, by her, with the capacity to change the information at a moment’s notice. And, the system had to be easy to use. Why complicate something which could be so simple? We always say, if you can use social media or emails; you can use our platform.
At this point in his life, Dani’s son had grown inquisitive about changes in his environment, but he was so anxious about change and the unknown, that when children asked if he would like to play with them, he would say he was unsure if he could, because he didn’t know if it would be raining at lunch time. After a few weeks of using the app, the impact became apparent. Having the ability to reference his app when he needed reassurance, structure or support, he began to come out of his shell. He stopped worrying so much about the changes around him and focused more on what was happening within the classroom, for the first time forming solid friendships and taking significant strides with his education. His individual engagement with the app was excellent, but it wasn’t until he made a submission via the ‘How Am I Feeling’ portion of the app, to indicate he was having a problem at school, that we could gauge just how much of a difference the app could make to someone’s life. Without the app he may never have felt comfortable discussing this issue, or his feelings, with anyone and in turn would have suffered in silence. Making this submission meant that Dani was able to go to school and quietly resolve the issue, without making him self-conscious.
For us, the My SEND App isn’t just a product or service, it is our very life. We participate in a wide variety of fundraising events, volunteering and offer our time for parent to parent support, with the aim of creating a blog and webinars, covering ‘How to’ topics within SEND support.
We offer a bespoke service, at a low monthly cost, with no fixed contract. Your app is yours and completely private, with the capability to share the app with only those you choose. You can add and remove features as and when required. Take the app out for a month and use it when going on holiday or use it continuously. Just like our app, we are here for you, just when you need us.
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