Our Blog

February 26, 2018 - Special Words and Special Words Pro - Updates

William using Special Words

Updated versions of our Special Words and Special Words Pro apps for iPad and iPhone can now be downloaded from the App Store.

This fixes a problem in both apps, where if you interrupted an activity while a card was rotating, you could end up with the text on the card mirrored left-right.

In Special Words Pro, we've also solved a problem that affected iOS 7 users only, preventing registration and download of our free add-on resources.

Special Words on Android tablets and phones is not affected by these issues.

Free add-on resources

Download apps for iPad & iPhone

Download apps for Android

February 21, 2018 - IMET Exhibition - Innovate, Motivate, Educate through Technology

This year's IMET Exhibition brings more than 20 educational technology companies to Cumbria, offering school tech services, display solutions, assessment tools, online teaching resources and more.

Hosted by Cumbria Apple Regional Training Centre, this is the ideal opportunity for teachers who were unable to travel to London for last month's Bett Show.

This year the event is being held in two locations, Barrow in Furness on Tuesday March 13th, and Penrith on Wednesday 14th. Bett Awards 2018 finalists Special iApps will be exhibiting on both days, so come and try our range of educational apps for early years and special needs.

The event is free, and schools from outside Cumbria are equally welcome. If you'd like to attend, please register on Eventbrite:

Register for Barrow (13th)

Register for Penrith (14th)

January 30, 2018 - Special Words Pro & Teacher's Manual Now Available

Thank you to everybody who came to our stand at the Bett Show in London last week! We had visitors from as far away as Brazil, Iceland and Israel.

  • Special Words Pro

    We launched the professional edition of our Special Words app at Bett. It offers printing, free access to our new library of curriculum resources, and more. It's now available in English on the App Store for the iPad and iPhone, with other languages to follow.

    Compare Editions

  • Teacher's Manual

    To accompany the app, we have also published a paperback Teacher's Manual. Designed for teachers following EYFS and National Curriculum in the UK, it's also applicable to early years education in other countries.

    It includes detailed guidance on how to use Special Words and Special Words Pro, as well as suggestions for complementary activities.

    Available from Amazon in the UK (£ 9.99), North America (US $9.99) and Europe (9.99 €). VAT is added in some European countries.

    Order Now

January 20, 2018 - Bett Show & Special Words Pro

Maya using Touch-Numbers

Join us at the Bett Show in London, January 24-27, 2018. We will be launching the new Pro edition of our award-winning Special Words app, and accompanying Teacher's Manual.

We'll be there every day on stand C40d next to the Department of International Trade (DIT) Lounge. To ensure you get to talk to us about your needs, and are able to try our apps, book a meeting by contacting us and telling us which day(s) you'll be there.

Contact Us

Entry to the show is free, but we recommend you register to attend in advance.

Register Now

We'd like to thank DIT for supporting us in exhibiting. Barbara's daughter Maya features on DIT's show posters, using out Touch-Numbers app.

Our Special Words and Special Stories apps are shortlisted finalists in this year's Bett Awards. The winners will be announced on the evening of January 24, so fingers crossed!

December 19, 2017 - Happy Christmas after a busy year!

2017 has been a busy year at Special iApps, with lots going on behind the scenes, laying the foundations for some exciting new products coming out throughout 2018.

We're grateful for all the support provided by different people and organisations

We've had a lot of support from many sources, both in-kind and through the programmes that we've joined, and we'd like to say a big thank-you to everyone who has been involved. We started 2017 part way through the 2016 Big Venture Challenge, and now end 2017 having started The Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Trade Up programme, in partnership with the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) and jointly funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

We continue to work hard to make our apps available all around the world

It's been wonderful to be recognised for our work this year and we're thrilled to have been shortlisted finalists in the 2017 Tech4Good Awards and 2017 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards. We continue to support children with special educational needs globally, and it's been good to see Special Words reach over 25 languages with the addition of Afrikaans and Russian. Colin also had a fantastic trip to Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine in April as guest of the Ukrainian Charitable Down Syndrome Organization. Then later in the year we were selected as runner up in the 7th Open to Export competition.

We will innovate again and again in 2018 to give you the best of our apps

The icing on the cake was when both Special Words and Special Stories were announced shortlisted finalists in the 2018 Bett Awards. We're looking forward to exhibiting at the Bett Show from 24-27 January 2018. We will be on stand C40d near the Department of International Trade Lounge, with the launch of Special Words Pro and our new curriculum resources - the first in a new series of apps we've planned for 2018.

Last but not least...

We would like to take this opportunity to say that the best things that have happened in 2017 have been reading and hearing your stories, when we meet face to face or virtually. It's always wonderful to get such positive feedback on how our products are transforming so many lives.

All Special iApps team members wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Bev, Colin, Barbara and Sian

December 8, 2017 - 12 Tips Of Christmas!

Video: Get Ready for Christmas

Watch the video now

Christmas is getting closer! This year, get ready to create unforgettable memories as a family with our "12 Tips Of Christmas". We've designed a fun, festive and colourful series of Holiday tips counting all the way down to the big day.

Every day from Wednesday 13th December, we will share on Facebook and Twitter helpful advice for how to get the most out of our Special Words and Special Stories apps during the Christmas and Holiday period.

So this is a great time to download these apps for children with special educational needs and try them for yourselves!

Download Now

How to follow Special iApps 12 Tips Of Christmas?

Are you feeling excited by our special 12 Tips Of Christmas? To grab all our daily tips, it is as simple as following @specialiapps on Facebook and Twitter:

As Christmas is definitely a time for cheering and sharing, don't hesitate to comment our daily tips on our social media channels.

We'd also love to hear from you! Make our 12 Tips Of Christmas yours and share your experience on social media with these hashtags:

#SpecialiApps #12TipsOfChristmas

We hope you will enjoy your Christmas holidays with Special Words and Special Stories!

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way...

December 5, 2017 - More App Updates!

iSwitch and Smoothie switches made by Pretorian Technologies

It's already possible for anyone who cannot control a touch screen to operate several of our apps for iPad and iPhone using one or two switches. With this we have witnessed children with profound physical disabilities showing how much they know, and surprising their parents and teachers.

We've now updated Special Words so it can be used with a third switch, and Colin has a new video demonstrating in detail how to connect and configure switches for an iPad. We'd like to thank Pretorian Technologies for providing us with some of their switches and switch interfaces for this.

Watch the video

We have also released an update on the App Store for Special Stories, adding full support for iOS 11 and the 10.5 inch iPad Pro. We have also fixed a bug that prevented stories being updated after disabling and then enabling the editing option in the app's settings.

November 8, 2017 - Special Words - Update for iPad & iPhone

An updated version of Special Words for iPad and iPhone is now available on the App Store. This is a free update if you already have the app:

  • Child Safety Gate

    This version introduces a safety gate (also called a parental lock). Apple is asking developers to add these to apps for children. You will see the gate whenever you tap the action button in the Word List. It asks you to solve an arithmetic problem, to prove you are a grown up! If you prefer not to have a gate, you can turn it off in the settings.

  • Large Text

    This is a new setting, to increase the size of the text on the word cards by 50%. We think it will be particularly helpful for children with visual impairment, as several of you have requested something like this.

  • Cards Per Page

    This setting, which already offered you a choice of 1, 2, 3 or 4 cards to match on each page, now allows you to increase that to 6 or 8. Try this if you think 4 cards isn't sufficiently challenging!

  • Newer Hardware and Software

    We've optimised this version for iOS 11 and for the 10.5 inch iPad Pro. We still support iOS 7 to 10, but this version cannot be installed on iOS 6 (now more than 5 years old). If you have an iPad 2 or later, running iOS 6, you can update it to iOS 9 or later.

Did you know?

There are several tools available to limit what your child can do in Special Words, and generally on your iPad or iPhone:

  • Pressing and hold the Padlock at the top of an activity for 3 seconds will prevent leaving that activity.
  • Turning off Enable Editing in the app's settings will prevent modification of word list and profiles (so things can't be deleted).
  • You have to open the Child Safety Gate before you can manage profiles, import or export word lists, visit our website, or completely reset the app.
  • By using Guided Access, you can lock the iPad into any app, so you cannot leave the app by tapping the Home button.
  • If you enable Restrictions in the iPad's settings, you can prevent apps being deleted, in-app purchases being made, and much more!

November 2, 2017 - Bett Awards - Finalist

Bett Awards 2018 Finalist

We are delighted to announce that two of our apps have been short-listed for the 2018 Bett Awards:

  • Special Stories

    Finalist in the Special Educational Needs Solutions category

  • Special Words

    Finalist in the International Digital Education Resource category

The Bett Awards are a celebration of inspiring creativity and innovation in technology for education.

These awards are an integral part of the annual Bett Show, the world's leading showcase of education technology solutions, held in London. The winners of the 2018 awards will be announced on January 24.

We will be exhibiting at the Bett Show from 24 to 27 January. You can register for free to attend, so take the opportunity if you can to come and talk to us there about your ideas and how our apps can help you transform the lives of children you work with.

Register to attend now

October 6, 2017 - Special Words - Two New Editions

We are very pleased to announce 2 new editions of our Special Words app.

Special Words Web

Special Words Web

Available now!

We have had lots of requests since we first launched Special Words for a way of trying it before buying. We understand that you can't always be sure whether your child will want to or be able to use an app until you've downloaded it.

Now you can do this free of charge, using the new "web app" edition of Special Words, which we have called Special Words Web. You can try it for up to 7 days on at most 5 devices. As it's a web app, you don't need to download it from a store, instead it just runs from our website. You just need to quickly register to use it.

As well as running on iPad, iPhone and Android devices, it also works on Windows and Mac (using the mouse if the computer doesn't have a touch screen). This means you can play with the app even if you don't yet have an iPad or tablet.

Read more and register

Special Words Pro

Special Words Pro

Launching very soon!

As you may know, we have been working hard over the Summer to develop and trial our new professional edition, Special Words Pro. This is perfect for teachers and parents who want to get more out of the app with their children.

Special Words Pro has all of the content and features of the standard edition, but there are some extra things it offers, including:

  • Printing the cards for paper-based activities
  • Access to our growing library of curriculum resources
  • Sheets for recording progress and assessments

Would you like to know as soon as it's available?

Join our mailing list

September 23, 2017 - Apple's iOS 11

On Tuesday, Apple released iOS 11, the latest version of its operating system for the iPad and iPhone. We have found one issue that may affect you - see below. This is a free upgrade for compatible devices:

  • iPad Air and later
  • iPad mini 2 and later
  • iPad Pro
  • iPhone 5S and later

All of our apps seem to work well on iOS 11, but if you spot any problems, please let us know so we can fix them.

iOS 11 in-app ratings & reviews setting

Apple have also added a useful new setting, designed to suppress in-app rating and review requests.

You can find this in Settings > iTunes & App Store.

We have never included distractions like these in our apps, but you can always ask us questions and make suggestions, by emailing us or completing our Contact Form. We always reply, usually within 24 hours.

Control Centre on iPad running iOS 11

An issue you may want to be aware of is that on iPads, the Control Centre > Access Within Apps switch is no longer present. This poses a problem if your child tends to swipe up from the bottom of the screen. We have always recommended turning this off, and oddly the switch is still available on iPhones. Raising the Control Centre on an iPad now also displays the dock, as shown here. We have been discussing this change with Apple, and we hope that the switch may be reinstated in a future update.

Meanwhile, we recommend waiting if you haven't yet upgraded to iOS 11. If you have already done so, you can instead use Apple's excellent Guided Access facility to lock your child into a single app (available since iOS 6).
This means children can't just quit the app you want them to be using and choose a different one. It also allows you to disable tapping on parts of the screen - really useful for preventing little fingers finding advanced settings or in-app purchases!

September 11, 2017 - Back to School

September marks the start of our academic school year. For very young children it may be that their routine is changing as their older siblings and/or friends are starting school so they are not going to see them during term-time in the same way. Older children may be starting nursery or school for the very first time, others moving up a year or even transitioning to the next stage but in the same school.

William ready for School

Children may have left their old school and now having had their summer break be starting a totally new school, or have reached adulthood and even starting college. For many it's the start of a new or different routine in their life and of those around them.

Perhaps the grown-ups' daily routines are also changing with changes at home and work, new jobs, going part-time, switching to full-time - so who does the school-run may be different. How children get to school may have changed, or are they starting a breakfast club or have after-school clubs or activities? Some children have moved house so everything has changed and is different to the routines they had before.

Whichever of these are happening to your family, it's the start of a new routine for everyone that includes new faces and new places and new routines. Life never remains the same as we get older - we are continuously transitioning from one stage to the next.

For some people extra help is needed to explain and introduce new faces and new routines, and this is where our Special Stories app comes in. It's being used around the world in lots of ways, at home as well as in school, to help children and adults through school transitioning, home-school communication, and assisting with homework and topic work, as well as creating stories of special occasions and memories.

Last year Maya started the next chapter of her life when she started mainstream primary school and you can read more about this from our blog last year. This September is her moving-up up to the next class along with her peers.

William in Special Stories

For William, September 2017 has been a big change. He's started a new school. Having had 9 years at his last school, which was all the way through Nursery, Reception, Key Stage 1 and then Key Stage 2 he has now started Key Stage 3 at our local mainstream comprehensive school.

We bought his new uniform before the summer holidays and he had transition days last term with his peers as well as summer school, so plenty of opportunity to meet new teachers and friends and settle in. Just before school started we dropped off his old uniform to his primary school and said our goodbyes again. We bought new school shoes, pens and stationery and all the things needed to start school. Buying a new uniform and passing on his old uniform is all part of transitioning from one school to the next. The following day it was waking up bright and early, on with a brand new uniform, and off to school with all the kit. A new routine as term started and the summer holiday ended.

Having used Special Stories there were lots of stories about his new school that he'd helped create, and read for us all to get familiar with new teachers and his new routine before it all started. We've used Special Stories since 2011 and have many stories of what he's done over the years inside and outside school - time on holiday, weekends with friends and family, and all the special occasions we've had. It's been good to look back on where he's been and the progress he has made.

The day was silent without him, and we all wondered what he had been doing and how he had got on. When he came home smiling from ear to ear, we looked at his iPad together and talked about his day. We hope your new term is off to a great start too!

September 1, 2017 - Happy Birthday to Special Words!

Happy Birthday to Special Words

Six years today we launched our first app, Special Words.

Since then it has been helping thousands of children around the world with their speech, sight vocabulary, and much more. It's now widely used in schools and in speech therapy. One father we met at an event in Parliament in 2015 told us this app had got his son to speak.

To celebrate this anniversary, we will be releasing a major update to Special Words for iPad and iPhone later this month, which will include:

  • The ability to print cards and baseboards
  • Sheets for recording progress
  • New curriculum-related resources

Thank you to everyone who has provided feedback and suggestions for improving the app, please keep sending us your great ideas! Particular thanks to all of our volunteer translators.

More about Special Words

Preview the new resources

August 2, 2017 - Let's Sign - My 1st Signs

Yesterday we released a free update to our Let's Sign - My 1st Signs app for children who are deaf or hearing-impaired. For use on iPad, and featuring graphics from the Let's Sign BSL series that's widely used in the UK, the app is designed to help children learn signs for over 150 words. As well as British Sign Language (BSL) signs, it also includes variants that will be familiar to users of Makaton and Sign Supported English (SSE).

Screenshot of Let's Sign - My 1st Signs

New in this update:

  • Data Sharing

    If you add your own photos and audio to the app, you can now share your updated profiles using iCloud Drive.

  • Settings

    The app's wide range of adjustable settings are now all in the app itself, not in the iPad's Settings app.

  • Other Changes

    We've fixed a few minor bugs, and updated the User Guide.

Read more about the app

July 6, 2017 - Apps in Afrikaans

Screenshot of Special Words in Afrikaans

We are very pleased to announce that 6 of our apps now include support for Afrikaans: Special Words, Touch-Words, Touch-Animals, Touch-Colours, Touch-Shapes and Touch-Emotions.

Afrikaans, originally derived from Dutch, is spoken by several million people, mostly in South Africa and Namibia.

We would particularly like to thank Lizet and Derick Horn for their help with the written translation and audio recording.

More about Special Words

June 6, 2017 - Our Brand New Teacher Manual Trial

We're thrilled to announce the launch the first in our series of Teacher Manuals this Autumn – and if you're a professional working in a school or nursery following EYFS in the UK, you're exactly who we'd like to hear from!

We're holding a pilot of our new Teacher Manual for Special Words on iPad during June and July this year. Our resources have been developed in collaboration with experienced teachers and pre-school SEN co-ordinators, and aim to make it as easy as possible to make the most of our apps with children under your care. The guidance within the Manual includes advice on how to enhance learning and development, as well as helping to assess progress being made in EYFS areas.

People who help us

People who help us

Life cycle of a butterfly

Life cycle of a butterfly

We've been busy at work creating a new 'PRO' version of Special Words to be used alongside the manual, and it's been enhanced with lots of classroom friendly features such as reporting and recording results. As part of the pilot, you'll be given exclusive access to the app before we launch it officially – complete with all of its EYFS resources to try out.

What we're looking for from participants includes comments, reviews and feedback on the Teacher Manual, our Special Words Pro app and the additional EYFS resources. We're looking for primary schools and nurseries who can use the collection with their classes over the Summer term.

Special Words Pro

Special Words Pro includes:

  • Sheets for recording learning progress & assessments
  • Printable cards and baseboards for classroom use
  • Access to downloadable curriculum resources

Our EYFS curriculum resources cover areas including:

  • Geography - Transport, Weather, Seasons...
  • History - Stone Age to Great fire of London
  • People & Communities
  • Understanding of the World

We hope you're as excited about our new project as we are, as it's a great opportunity to feedback ideas and suggestions as we develop more in our work to help children with special needs and additional learning needs.

You can apply here to be part of our exciting trial. Be quick to register though, as places are limited.

(Registration is now closed)

We can't wait to hear from you!

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