Our Blog

June 27, 2013 - Albanian and switch support

We are pleased to announce updated versions of Special Words and Special Stories for iOS and Special Words for Android.

Special Words on both platforms now includes an Albanian translation, kindly contributed by Kledjan and Emanuela Zaimi of Down Syndrome Albania Foundation.

We've also added to the assistive switch support in both iOS apps: as well as recognising switch interfaces that send space and enter, they now also respond to the commonly-used ~1 and ~3.

There are also some bug fixes in these updates, including:

  • In both apps on iOS, if using the camera is disabled in Settings > Restrictions, the Take Picture button is hidden (previously, the button was visible but the app would crash if you tapped it).

  • Earlier versions of Special Stories failed to delete old sound files when re-recording sounds, so stories could use increasing amounts storage space. This is now fixed, and any old unused files will automatically be removed.

May 11, 2013 - Special Words for Android

Special Words is now available on Google Play for Android tablets and phones! Many thanks to everybody who completed our Android Survey and to those who helped us test the app.

The Android version has the same functionality as the Apple version (apart from not supporting assistive switches) and it supports the same set of languages. The layout of the buttons is slightly different - to see it in detail, watch the video, or read the User Guide.

Read the User Guide

If you add your own text, pictures and sounds to the app on an Apple device, you can transfer them via email to the app on an Android device, and vice versa. You can also transfer data between Android devices using Bluetooth, and download our existing free resources from the web.

Download the app

There are many different Android devices, running lots of different versions of Android, so we obviously can't test on all of them. If you find a problem on your device, please email us and let us know so we can try to fix it for you.

May 5, 2013 - Hindi Special Words

We are pleased to announce an updated version of Special Words for Apple devices.

We have added a Hindi translation, with written words and audio kindly provided by Shashi Pandya. Apple doesn't currently offer Hindi as one of the default languages for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, so the buttons and menus will still appear in English, but you can now see and hear Hindi for the written words and sounds in the 4 games, by selecting Hindi as the language for any profile. How to select languages is explained in the Managing Profiles chapter of the Special Words User Guide. You can also add new words in Hindi if you enable the Hindi (Devanagari) keyboard in Apple's Settings app.

This version also includes a fix to a problem where some captured photos (typically taken using the front camera on an iPad in landscape orientation with the home button on the right) caused unintended rotating photo animations when playing the games.

April 26, 2013 - Price changes

We've kept our app prices constant (subject to currency fluctuations) since we first launched Special Words in September 2011 and have held off increases for as long as possible. Unfortunately we now have to raise the price of all of our apps. They will go up by approximately 40% (varying slightly between countries) on May 5.

We develop our apps on a nonprofit basis, but do need to cover our costs in order to fund new development and ongoing maintenance and support, to purchase hardware and software, and to keep a roof over our heads. We continually add new features to our apps, for which updates are (and will continue to be) free. We also have a range of free add-ons and intend to continue and expand these.

At Special iApps we develop specialised apps for children around the world with learning disabilities and difficulties, in conjunction with teachers, speech and language experts and other professionals, and we make improvements based on feedback from parents whenever we can. This is a niche market, and doesn't deliver a huge financial return.

We run a full-time business with just 3 people, all parents of disabled children. We answer every support query we receive, and aim to do so within 24 hours. Recently we've been concentrating on developing a version of Special Words for Android, in response to many requests for this, and we will be releasing it in the Summer. We're currently working on new apps, and will tell you more about them as soon as we can.

We hope you think our apps still deliver good value for money, and we are always keen to hear your suggestions for improvements and additions. We will hold our current prices until May 4, as we are aware you may wish to download any you were thinking of getting before the price increase takes effect.

April 25, 2013 - Free downloads

We have some new free downloadable resources for Special Words and Special Stories, to help you teach your child about emotions and facial expressions.

Find out more

April 12, 2013 - Special Words for Android coming soon

After 3 months of hard work we have a test version of our Special Words app for Android. Invitations to help us test it have gone out to those people who completed our Android Survey and said they'd be willing to help.

When the app will be ready to release will depend on how many issues we find during testing, and how long it takes us to fix them. Although the Android version has pretty much the same functionality as the Apple version, we've had to re-write it completely from scratch, because the two mobile platforms are very different under the hood, and we've had to learn a lot about Android along the way.

If there proves to be sufficient interest in Special Words, we will try to make our other apps available for Android as well.

Watch this space!

March 28, 2013 - Special Stories switch support

Today we have released an updated version of Special Stories. Like our recent update to Special Words, Special Stories now supports assistive switches.

For more details, please read the new Switches chapter in the User Guide.

March 22, 2013 - Special Words: Welsh and switches

We are pleased to announce an updated version of Special Words.

This now includes a Welsh translation, kindly provided by Siôn Meredith and Rachel Morgan from Aberystwyth University. Apple doesn't currently offer Welsh as one of the default languages for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, so the buttons and menus will still appear in English, but you can now see and hear Welsh for the written words and sounds in the 4 games, by selecting “Cymraeg” as the language for any profile. How to select languages is explained in the Managing Profiles chapter of the Special Words User Guide.

We have also added a facility to control all the games using assistive switches connected to the iPad, iPhone or iPod touch via a Bluetooth switch interface. This is for children whose physical disability prevents them from operating the device using its touch screen, but who can choose and select options by operating a single switch, or a pair of switches. Many thanks to the staff at Portland Academy for helping us with this, and to Pretorian Technologies Ltd for providing us with their APPlicator switch interface and Smoothie 75 switches (shown here). For more information about using switches with Special Words, see the Assistive Switches chapter in the User Guide.

February 18, 2013 - BridgingApps reviews

BridgingApps (formerly SNApps4Kids.com) have recently reviewed two of our apps. They described Special Words as an excellent app for assisting young children in developing very beginning reading skills and preschool/school-age children in learning sight words, and said of Special Stories The interface is clean and user-friendly ... there are a number of other special features that make this app stand out from others in its category.

Full review of Special Words

Full review of Special Stories

January 1, 2013 - Android survey

We've had a number of requests recently to make our apps available on Android mobile devices. If this is something that would interest you, please complete our new survey. This will help us assess the level of interest, and establish the range of devices and Android versions we will need to support.

(May 10, 2013: Survey is now closed)

December 29, 2012 - App Store reviews

We've had a couple of App Store reviews recently, asking for features to be added that already exist in our apps. Like all developers, we are not able to reply to App Store reviews, but if you contact us by email we guarantee to reply, usually the same day.

For instance, Special Words has a shuffle cards option to make the words and pictures not always appear in the same position, and we added this in March because several of you had asked for it.

Likewise, when adding pages in Special Stories, you can disable recording sounds (either so you can add them later in a quieter environment, or because you don't want sound at all).

These and many other options can be found in each app's Settings. We recommend you regularly update all your apps, to ensure you have all the latest features.

Each of our apps has an extensive User Guide available on our website and from the app's Online Documentation view. We welcome your feedback and comments, and we include many of your suggestions as we continue to develop our apps.

We'd especially like to thank everyone who has contributed suggestions, translations and other help in 2012, and would like to wish everybody a Very Happy New Year.

December 8, 2012 - Data transfer between apps

You can now transfer words, pictures and sounds between Special Words and Special Stories!

Today we've released updated versions of both apps. With these you can transfer a word list from Special Words into Special Stories as a talking book. In the other direction, you can transfer a story from Special Stories as a set of cards that you can then match in Special Words. So it's now easy to reinforce learning from one app in the other, and create resources once that you can use in both apps.

We've also added support for German in Special Stories, and improved the German in Special Words: many thanks to Jochen Kortländer for providing the translations.

October 12, 2012 - Special Numbers updates

A new version of Special Numbers is now available. We've added Spanish and Catalan to the existing UK and US English: huge thanks to Marta Montserrat and her husband Àlex for providing the written and spoken words in both languages. We've optimised this version for iOS 6 and the iPhone 5.

We've also now added a Profiles feature, similar to the one in Special Words, so you can re-record the audio using your own voice (or your child's), and replace the written words (one, two, etc) and you can convert for any language we don't yet include in the app.

As each profile can have its own sounds and settings, you can now easily personalise Special Numbers to use it with several children on a single iPad. You can also transfer customisations between devices (using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or email).

Find out more

October 8, 2012 - New team member

We are very pleased and excited to announce that Barbara Lowe has joined the team at Special iApps. Barbara is an experienced graphic artist and photographer, and will be helping us with pictures and artwork for our apps, website and publicity materials.

Barbara has a baby girl, Maya, who enjoys the sessions at The Education Centre for Children with Down Syndrome, and you'll be seeing many of the children there featuring on our website in the coming months.

Please join us in welcoming Barbara to Special iApps!

October 2, 2012 - iBooks

An updated version of Special Stories (1.3.0) is now available on the App Store. As well as being optimised for the iPhone 5 and iOS 6, you can now view and listen to your stories in iBooks.

You could already export your stories as PDF files, and open these in iBooks, but without sound. Now you can also export them to iBooks as books with text, pictures and sound, and share them with people who have iBooks but don't have Special Stories (for example, grandparents).

You need to be running iOS 5.0 or later to do this. To add an existing story your iBooks bookshelf on the same device, go to the Extra Actions view in Special Stories, tap Export Story, select the story, tap the Open In ... button, and then the option Open in iBooks. To email a story to somebody else so they can open it in iBooks, choose Use Email instead of Open In ... and then the option Email as EPUB (iBooks).

When viewed in iBooks, each story has a portrait-only single-page layout. To play the sound for each page, tap the picture: to turn the pages, swipe across the text. Each story has a table of contents to make it easy to quickly navigate to a particular page.

September 15, 2012 - iOS 6

Apple will release iOS 6, the latest version of its operating system for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, on Wednesday, and its newest iPhone, the iPhone 5 on Friday.

A particularly useful new feature in iOS 6 is Guided Access. This will allow you to effectively disable all the physical buttons on the device and keep your child in one app. No more fiddling with the Home button or the volume! It will also enable you to disable areas of the screen within any app, so that they don't respond to touches (the padlock lock button and editing setting in our apps can be used to complement this).

Provided you have the current versions of our apps, they should work perfectly still after upgrading to iOS 6. If you are running old versions of Special Stories and Special Words (i.e. if you haven't updated them since 7th July), you need to download the latest versions.

Current versions of all our apps will run on the new iPhone 5 (and 5th generation iPod touch). However, like nearly all existing apps (apart from those developed by Apple) they won't yet use its extra screen area (about 1/2 inch or 12 cm taller than the iPhone 4 and 4S).

We're currently working on updates to our apps that will enable them to use the whole screen on these new devices. Unfortunately, we'll no longer be able to support iOS versions earlier than 4.3, so if you are still running 4.0, 4.1 or 4.2, you'll need to update. We'll let you know as soon as our new versions are available.

The image to the right shows how the next version of Special Words will look on an iPhone 5. Two extra pictures in the Word List will be visible at any one time, compared with earlier iPhone models.

September 2, 2012 - Anniversary party

Cutting the cake at our first anniversary party. From left: Bev, William, Colin and Joseph.

September 1, 2012 - First anniversary

It's our first birthday! A very big thank you to everybody who has supported us over the last year, and we'll see you later if you're coming to the party.

Today we have launched our latest app, Special Numbers. ClickTap the App Store logo to download it now!

August 20, 2012: New app - Special Numbers

We are launching our latest app, Special Numbers, on 1st September. The price will be the same as for Special Stories and Special Words.

You can watch the video and read the user guide now ...

Find out more

August 6, 2012 - Party invitation

Celebration Party!

1st September will be the first anniversary of the launch of our Special Words app. To celebrate, we are holding a party between noon and 4pm on Saturday 1st September at the Alan Shearer Centre in Newcastle upon Tyne. The sensory rooms, music room and ballpool will be available, and the café will be open. If the weather is fine, we'll be able to use the outside play area too.

Please email us if you will be coming, so we have an idea of numbers.

July 12, 2012 - Durham iPad Project report

Durham County Council has published an evaluation of The Durham iPad Project.

This term-long project involved 13 children in the UK, aged 3-7 years, with a range of communication, language and literacy difficulties.

It has demonstrated that Special Words is an effective resource to enhance communication, language and literacy skills, and that it has a positive impact on the development of expressive language, receptive language, word recognition, reading and listening skills.

Find out more

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