Posts Tagged special needs

We love to find out more about apps that are not only fun to use but provide a great benefit to their users’ lives. So, when I heard about AutisMate, a new app aimed at helping those with autism develop their communication and behavioral skills, I jumped at the chance to find out just how it came to be.

The History Behind It

AutisMate has quite an interesting history, as it was created by Jonathan Izak, who was motivated by wanting to help his 10 year old brother, Oriel, who has autism.

“As with many on the spectrum, my brother was often frustrated by the inability to express himself and understand what others expected from him. I recognized that those on the autism spectrum generally have stronger visual learning abilities and that there was a huge need for a solution that could help my brother and others connect with the world around them,” he explained.

AutisMate does this by taking well-researched visual therapy interventions such as video modeling, visual schedules, and visual stories and making them interactive and easily personalized.” Jonathan pointed out that while assistive speech technology is already available for some, it’s “limited to sentence building.”

“This starting point was too advanced for my brother. For this reason, AutisMate uses visual scenes as a starting point for communication and progresses to the more demanding sentence building. Research shows that visual scenes are more intuitive to the early communicator.”

Researching How AutisMate Could Help

Jonathan’s initial experiences with autism came from his brother, but he appreciated that while making AutisMate, it was “important to partner with a wide variety of parents, therapists, teachers and other autism professionals.” As anyone with experience with autism knows, every person on the spectrum is unique and has their own different challenges, and that’s without taking into account the different needs of caregivers and professionals working alongside the autistic person.

Jonathan worked to create a “flexible platform…designed in such a way that it can be personalized to each autistic child and caters to the needs of whoever is using it.” While he explains that he wanted to help Oriel, he also wanted to “build a solution that would help him and the many other children like him who are challenged by the wide variety of developmental issues associated with autism.”

Taking a year and a half to develop, Jonathan started by testing early builds of the app in local schools and private practices. “Along the way we built a network of over 300 industry experts, researchers, clinicians, educators and even parents,” he said, “who provided a 360 degree view of the wide variety of needs and strategies to promote communication and behavioral development for individuals with autism. We also formed an autism advisory board that is made up of some of the leading industry experts and researchers.”

Reaping The Benefits

Always wanting to create a new approach to overcoming the issues that many with autism suffer from, Jonathan was still stunned by the positive response. “It’s unbelievably rewarding to get to experience how something you are working towards is impacting the lives of so many families.”

He recounted to me examples of how a child was able to overcome a fear of elevators by “[using] a visual story to prepare him for what will happen.” and he’s appreciated the many “heartwarming emails” from educators and caregivers, “describing how their child is communicating for the first time.”

It’s been good news for Oriel, too. “Beyond the apparent increase in spontaneous speech, it has also helped my brother with daily activities like tying his shoes, behaving when going to a restaurant or doctor’s office, and learning how to interact with others.”

AutisMate is currently available solely for the iPad, but Jonathan informed us that besides numerous updates, they are also currently busy working on expanding to both the iPhone and Android platforms. Additional products are also in the pipeline, so things are looking very promising for those after a solution for various special needs.

Thanks to Jonathan Izak for taking the time to answer our questions.

AutisMate is available now, priced at $149.99. To learn more about it, check out the AutisMate website.

iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad
Released: 2012-04-11 :: Category: Education

This week at we closed out the month of January, and thus our month of focusing on health-related apps, with a special article on iOS and special needs by Lisa Caplan. She writes, “In keeping with January’s health & fitness theme I’m taking a stab at some self-disclosure. I have a spinal cord injury with a host of related 14-karat diagnoses. I don’t use apps for the disabled, though, like those to help remind me to take my meds, find handicapped parking, get medical information or find online support communities. I don’t think anything on my iPad – including pictures – would hint that I have “special needs.” Nonetheless, iOS devices and apps have improved my health, both physical and mental.”

Read all of Lisa’s commentary at

Amy Solomon at reviewed Thumbnail Theater: Macbeth this week, and she had some very positive things to say about it: “Thumbnail Theater: Macbeth is an app that I greatly enjoyed, both on its own merits and also because apps for older children are not as common as I would like in iTunes. I highly recommend this app to any student who is reading Shakespeare as well as to adults who would like to know more about this time period in general.”

Read more about this iOS adaptation of the “Scottish Play” at

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2011-12-10 :: Category: Education

Finally, site editor Rob LeFebvre reported on recent trends in app costs. He writes, “Fiksu, Inc. released their latest report today on the mobile app economy, and found all time highs for marketing costs as well as iOS downloads in December. They attribute this data to advertising bidding wars to lock in top rankings before the App Store froze during the 3 day holiday.”

Read the full report at

That’s another week down for the record books. Thanks for reading, and remember that you can keep track of all the latest reviews, news and contests by following us on Twitter or liking us on Facebook. See you next time!

In keeping with January’s health & fitness theme I’m taking a stab at some self-disclosure. I have a spinal cord injury with a host of related 14-karat diagnoses. I don’t use apps for the disabled, though, like those to help remind me to take my meds, find handicapped parking, get medical information or find online support communities. I don’t think anything on my iPad – including pictures – would hint that I have “special needs.” Nonetheless, iOS devices and apps have improved my health, both physical and mental.

I used to work for a major(ish) search engine and loved it. I made a decent wage, too. When they went belly-up I was recruited by a dream company, as first tier as it gets. But Canada has socialized medicine – something someone in my situation avails herself of often – and my husband is disabled too. He’s legally blind. Very. We joke it’s the crippled leading the blind around here – I’m allowed, you’re not and don’t we hide it well? We have a young son, live in a mortgage-free cottage in a wonderful little village with lots of community support. In the end, a move cross-country and below our Southern border proved imprudent.

That reasonable decision, however, left me in a bind that quickly became a stupor. Finding legit online work isn’t easy, much less something that accommodates the daily, often hourly, vagaries of my health. Nor does it come close to replacing what I was earning. When my son was in pre-school he was home enough to occupy a lot of my time, but when he started kindergarden full-time I fell into a mental malaise. If my leg muscles were atrophying from lack of use, my cerebral muscles were doing likewise from lack of social and intellectual stimulation.

Enter the iPad. In December 2010 I got one on what I now call iHanukkah. I received an iPhone upgrade too, but as much as I love it, smartphones are for people on the move. I am shut-in five to eight months a year so I use it for Slacker Radio, SMS, the camera and GPS. For me, the iPad was the transformative device.

I am an art nut, a history obsessed bookworm, talentless musician, and I used to indulge my backpacking wanderlust frequently. Discovering apps like Monet HD, Art Authority, Six Strings, Paris: DK Eyewitness and one revelatory digital book, Virtual History ROMA made my synapses salivate and reignited my passions – albeit in sedentary form.

I discovered styluses, capacitive brushes, and amazing art apps like procreate and Zen Brush that let my creativity flow. I loaded iBooks, Kindle, Zinio and PressReader – all with scalable fonts – and my mental muscles started to flex. I awakened to find a new way to use my creative writing background. There were no reviews of $9.99 Roma when I spotted it upon its debut. That’s a lot of coin on a disability pension, but temptation won and at first tap my eyes popped. I wrote a review myself. And then another. One was picked up by a review site, a couple of gigs followed and ta-da! I’m a bonafide blogger.

I am not out hiking because of my iPads and apps, nor do I break fewer bones nor get fewer infections. I have great apps that could help, like iMuscle for physical therapy and My Medical for health tracking, but I am organizationally impaired and forget (read skip) PT. But the use of mobile technology has allowed me post reviews from every local hospital, at home lying prone in bed and, in the summer, poolside. I can’t say I make even 1/2 of what I did before, but the freelancing is starting to add up – enough that I started my own iOS review and giveaway site.

I feel better. My mental health is improved, which is important when fighting any illness and linked to successful pain management. I have self-esteem and above all I am a role model to the squishy red-head in the pics who is now eight. As he sees me testing and tapping from dawn often to new dawn, 6 days a week, he learns that there are no real dis-abilities, just different abilities. Cliche? Maybe, but if one year with this tech can change my life so much, the future holds wondrous possibilities for access and inclusion for every kind of special need. Now all I need is an app to cure appaholism!


If you have special needs and an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad with their apps help you in unexpected ways, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.


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