Beverley Dean - Founder of Special iApps
Inspired by my Son William
As well as running Special iApps, I'm mother to Joseph and William. William (pictured with me) was born in 2005 with Down syndrome, duodenal atresia, Hirschsprung's disease, hearing impairment, and thyroid deficiency. Later, he was diagnosed as also having autism. Joseph, who's 6 years older than William, features as the British voice in many of our apps.
Little did I realise that a chance meeting in the Apple Store in January 2011 would lead on to Special iApps. Lesley shouted across the store You must get an iPad for William! and those 7 words led me to Mandy who asked the poignant question Which apps?. Having a child who communicates by sign, has very poor motor skills, gets easily distracted ... got me searching, only to find apps that were unusable, unsuitable or not quite what I had in mind.
Developing our own Apps
My husband Colin and I met when we both worked in IT many moons ago. We had only used an Apple Mac occasionally; our phones were 6 years old. However, a mission to write something usable, interesting and educational transformed us into Apple app developers, with our first app Special Words ready to launch by the end of the Summer. Nathan did some graphics and we found 16 iPhones, iPods and iPads owned and used by friends who helped us refine Special Words, with over 40 children using it. There was even more help offered to translate it to support 8 languages.
The iPad is a powerful learning tool for all. It's not just about writing our own apps. It's about supporting charities and professionals, and helping more disabled children to access this technology alongside traditional methods.
Our Journey So Far
We attended a conference hosted by Down Syndrome North East and Sure Start at Ushaw College when William was about 3 months old. By chance, having queued for lunch, we sat at a table where we met a number of parents who were involved with The Education Centre for Children with Down Syndrome (ECCDS).
We'd spent William's first 3 months living in the RVI hospital in Newcastle, and it was the first time we'd met other parents of children with Down syndrome. Little did we know that the majority of the people at this conference would join our growing circle of friends as the years passed.
I vividly recall the phone call I had the following day with Maggie Hart, who founded ECCDS. I can still picture walking from the car park into a special school corridor, past wheelchairs and rooms that I peered into, when we went to our first ever ECCDS session. Entering a noisy room, we were greeted by big smiles and warm gestures from volunteers and families as they bustled through activities. I remember holding William up on the table to track a brightly coloured ball and then buying an identical one to use at home with him.
Several years down the line, we ourselves are providing something special for all our children. Warmest thanks to all those who have supported our project and so helped transform my vision into reality.