September 28, 2016 - App Circus Competition - Barcelona
We have entered our Special Stories and Special Words apps into an
online competition. 10 apps will be shortlisted after voting closes on
October 4, to attend the final in Sant Cugat, near Barcelona in Spain,
on October 19.
Please help us to get to the final by voting. You can only vote for
one app and only through your Twitter account.
You can see all of the apps in the competition at:
Please retweet and follow
us @specialiapps. Why
not add a photo of you using the app, and let us know which one is your favourite!
September 24, 2016 - Upcoming Events in the UK
Again this year, we will be at the National Portage Association's
annual conference, on September 30th and October 1st in Northampton.
We'll be hosting 2 different seminars on the Friday, and repeating both
on the Saturday:
If you are new to using iPads and other tablets, or not sure what
it's all about, come along! We'll demonstrate iPads and Android
tablets, apps and other devices you can use with them, and explain
sharing, privacy, backups and much more.
Bring your iPad and Learn more about Using it as a Communication
We will be demonstrating our apps, and covering how parents and
professionals are using them to support children, helping them to
communicate and building strong foundations for the future. Android
tablets also welcome.
On Sunday October 16th, we will be exhibiting at the Cumbria Down's
Syndrome Conference, in Rheged, near Penrith, where speakers will
include Professor Sue Buckley, OBE and Dr Wendy Uttley. Come and visit
us on our stand, where you'll be able to try out our apps.
Today Apple released iOS 10, the latest version of its
operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Changes made
under the hood have affected apps from many developers, and we strongly
recommend you download all available app updates if you are intending to
run iOS 10.
To coincide, we've released updates for Special Words, Special
Stories and Special Numbers. We've optimised these for iOS 10, but
still fully support iOS 6, 7, 8 and 9. We recognise that some older
devices can't run iOS 10 (e.g. the iPad 2).
A feature of our apps is the ability to share content
(lists of words, or stories and collections), and we include an
option Use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, this stopped
working reliably in iOS 9, and didn't work at all in iOS 10. So we have
completely rewritten this code, and now sharing works well and much
faster in all iOS versions. The only downside is that for iOS 6 only,
this now requires Wi-Fi, and doesn't work with Bluetooth. Note that you
must update our apps on both the sending and receiving devices, or they
will be unable to connect.
A number of you have been confused about where to find the settings
for our apps. Historically, some developers installed theirs into
Apple's Settings app (the one with the cog-wheels icon, left), while
others incorporated them inside each of their own apps.
We used to provide our settings in both of these locations, but
unfortunately some configuration options you asked us to offer could
only be made to work in our app itself. So going forward, we've decided
to only support adjusting the setting for our 3 "Special" apps from
inside them. We'll be updating other apps soon to match.
When you have updated to iOS 10, you will notice that instead of
sliding your finger across the screen to unlock it, you must instead tap
the Home button. We found this a little confusing on recent devices
that support Touch ID: by default you now need to touch the Home button
to identify yourself, but then remove your finger and tap the button to
If you'd like to go back to just touching with your finger to unlock,
open Apple's Settings app, and in General > Accessibility >
Home Button, turn on the new option Rest Finger to
September 7, 2016 - Starting School
So, with Maya (literally) marching off into the next chapter of her
life - starting at the local mainstream primary school (elementary
school), a new environment opens up to her with lots of new words to
To help her and all of your new starters, we have created free
add-ons for Special Words and Special Stories that depict the school
surroundings, to familiarize and stimulate conversations. We also hope
that these images will be useful to you as your child moves up through
the school years, starts a new school, or just to help to readjust to
school life after the long summer break. We hope you enjoy using them,
adding your own words, photos and voiceovers to assist your child.
Barbara is our Head of Design and Photography. Today was her
daughter Maya's first day at school.
September 1, 2016 - Special iApps turns 5
Special iApps is 5 years old today!
We have come a long way since first launching Special Words in
English 2011, just a few months after the arrival of Apple's iPad 2. Now
all 11 of our apps are available in Catalan, French, German, Norwegian,
Polish and Spanish, and Special Words itself supports 23 languages.
In the last 12 months, we have been able to offer work experience and
college-based project work for 8 students at Newcastle and Northumbria
universities, have been at over a dozen events in the UK, and exhibited
at our first overseas conference in Norway.
A big thank-you to everyone who has travelled on this journey with
us, including the organisations and individuals who have helped with
funding, testing and translation. Most of all, thank-you to all you
parents, carers, teachers and others who have downloaded our apps, and
given us such great feedback, and especially to all the children around
the world who are enjoying learning with our apps.
We have exciting plans for the coming year, so watch this space!
August 11, 2016 - Booking for DNEX 2016 Seminars
Disability North Exhibition is being held on September 21-22, at
Newcastle Racecourse. We will be exhibiting on both days, so come and
see our apps in action on stand C16.
The exhibition also includes a number of FREE seminars. We will be
hosting one at 16:00 on the first day, Apps for Children with
Special Educational Needs. If you wish to attend any of the
seminars, please book a place.
July 1, 2016 - Anniversary of The Somme and Brexit
One hundred years ago today, the Battle of the Somme commenced in
Northern France, resulting in the death of more than one million men
from Britain, Germany, France and beyond. In October 2012, Bev, Joseph,
William and myself visited the Thiepval Monument, and found inscribed
there the name of Thomas William Hutchinson, Bev's great grandfather,
who lost his life on the first day of the battle. Joseph placed a small
wooden cross and poppy in his memory. Thomas left a 34 year old wife,
and 5 young children.
A century later, following the UK's vote by a narrow margin to leave
the EU, we are appalled to see the two main political parties in
Westminster descend into political in-fighting and back-stabbing, and to
survey the economic damage that the vote has already inflicted across
Europe and globally. I myself have travelled widely in the EU, for work
and for pleasure, from Ireland to Croatia and from Sweden to Greece. I
have also visited the US and Canada on many occasions. I have felt
welcome everywhere, and have always been proud to consider myself
European as well as English.
At Special iApps, it has always been our mission to help children
with learning difficulties wherever they were born and whichever country
they live in. This includes those in the UK who have English as an
additional language, and expats living around the world.
Our work is only possible because over 50 wonderful people from
around the globe who have given their time and effort to help us
translate our apps into two dozen languages. In 2014-2015, more than
two thirds of our downloads were from outside the UK, and one third of
our revenue from countries in Europe other than the UK. We are
delighted that currently we have two postgraduate students on work
placement with us here in North East England, one born in Germany and
the other in Poland.
As a UK-based nonprofit, with customers in over 100 countries, there
will undoubtedly be challenges and uncertainties for Special iApps as a
result of the vote. Not least because App Store prices are tied to
fluctuating exchange rates against the US Dollar, and because we may end
up having to manage tax-reporting separately for over 30 countries in
Hopefully some sort of leadership and plan will emerge soon in
London. We remain totally committed to all of our partners, customers,
and most of all children, everywhere in the world.
Colin Dean, co-founder.
June 29, 2016 - Special Words 3 for Android
We are pleased to announce the immediate availability of Special
Words 3 for Android.
Just like version 3 for iOS, the Android version now includes:
May 21, 2016 - Student Employee of the Year Awards
Special iApps recently participated in
the Student Employee of the Year
Awards, presented by the National Association of Student Employment
Services (NASES). The award recognises achievements of students who
effectively combine part time work with their study commitment as well
as student employers who offer students the opportunity to gain
experiences outside the university.
Jana and Katha entered the contest – and were successful. Katha was
highly recommended in the Commercial Impact category, and Jana was
awarded the winner of Newcastle University in the Above and Beyond
Awards. She will now continue to the regional level. Congratulations to
both of you!
Special iApps was declared a highly recommended employer, which our
student employees confirm, and which makes us very happy and proud.
May 4, 2016 - Special Numbers in Dutch and German
We have updated our Special Numbers app to add support for Dutch
(Speciale Getallen) and German (Besondere Zahlen).
Many thanks to Annette Dalhuisen and Maria Andela for the Dutch
translation, and Jana Cramer for the German.
This app now offers a range of activities to help develop early
number skills in 10 languages.
April 20, 2016 - Videos from Down syndrome Conference in Oslo
Colin and Bev were presenting and exhibiting
at Landskonferansen om Down syndrom
2016 in Oslo on April 6-8. Thank you to everybody who visited our
stand, it was amazing to learn how many children in Norway are already
using our apps!
Colin shared the stage with Professor Sue Buckley, OBE, on the
Friday. We've put together some short video extracts of Colin and Sue
talking about our apps (in English).
For Android users, we have released version 2.0.0 of Special Words,
which has the same new pictures, translations and voices. We hope to
bring the extra activities and cards-per-page setting to Android very
Touch-Words has also been updated on both iOS and Android: its 28
words now have pictures to match those in Special Words.
Many thanks to those of you whose suggestions we have incorporated
into the new versions, and to everybody who has worked so hard to help
us with this project.
March 14, 2016 - FREE Easter Resources for Special Words and Special Stories
As Easter approaches you can Download and use our FREE
Easter add-on. Add your own words and audio.
Having an Easter Egg hunt? Take photos of the Easter Trail and
create a Special Story to help find what the Easter bunny has
March 9, 2016 - Celebrating World Down Syndrome Day - Using Special iApps to Teach Prepositions
In celebration of World Down Syndrome Day, Special iApps have
designed some fun illustrations to help teach prepositions (in, on,
under...). It is widely recognised that a child with any language delay
usually struggles with these.
This can be due to cognition, inability to grasp the concept, and
difficulties in figuring out the nuances of the language. Sometimes
they know the concepts but are unable to retrieve or express
them. Whatever the reason, fun activities, repetitive and positive
responses are key to successful learning.
Where is the sock? is a fun and colourful
add on to use with Special Words and Special Stories. You can add your
own voice and written words.
In Special Words, this can then be used in any of the activities,
depending on the child's ability. In Special Stories, you can use the
story to reinforce language acquisition, and perhaps add your own
We hope you have fun using the images and celebrating World Down
syndrome Day with us on March 21st 2016!
March 1, 2016 - Using Special iApps to prepare for Maya's Birthday
As Maya approached her 4th Birthday, she needed some help with
vocabulary and familiarity of her upcoming birthday party. Barbara
created a Birthday add-on for Special Words and Special Stories and you
can read how she used them with Maya and download the free resources to
use with your children.
February 27, 2016 - Bev announced Woman of the Year at North East Glass Slipper Awards
Special iApps founder, Beverley Dean, was awarded North East Glass
Slipper Woman of the Year 2016 by The Chronicle Sunshine Fund. This
charity supplies specialist equipment to Children with disabilities or a
life-limiting illness in the North East.
The award event at the Gateshead-Newcastle Hilton Hotel raised an
amazing £13,992.50. All of the money supports children in the
North East of England.
If you would like to apply for an award or support the charity visit
the Sunshine Fund website.
February 26, 2016 - Have you 10 minutes to spare?
We currently have the help of a group of final year students at
Northumbria University Business School. They are conducting a study
to learn more about the usability of our website.
If you have 10 minutes to spare, please complete their survey. You
will be helping the students to complete their course, and us to improve
There are over 4 million native speakers of the Catalan language
(Català) in Spain and Andorra, and many children learn to speak, read
and write in Catalan, before Spanish or any other language.
Unfortunately, there are very few apps in Catalan suitable for children
with learning disabilities.
For some while, we have supported Catalan in 10 of our apps, and we
are now pleased to launch a Catalan version of our website.
If you set your iPad, iPhone or Android device's language to Català,
then our apps and website will automatically select this.
None of this would be possible without the hard work of two of our
volunteers from Catalonia. Pilar Clavera translated Special Words, and
provided the audio for this and Touch-Words. Marta Montserrat is the
translator and voice of all our other apps, and has now translated our
website with great dedication.
We have 8 Valentine themed drawings to build upon vocabulary. These
are available as FREE downloadable add-ons for our Special Words and
Special Stories apps.
They don't include written or spoken words: the idea is to have fun
adding your own words and voices. How about also including photos of
your valentine cards and flowers? How many things can you find that are
heart shaped or red?