Colin would like to thank Emanuela Zaimi and colleagues and all the
parents from Down Syndrome Albania who came to the training in Tirana on
Saturday. The families each now have a Samsung tablet with two of our
apps, funded by Vodafone. We hope you all enjoy using the apps as much
as Desanta did!
Chromebooks are laptops with touch screens that are becoming
increasingly popular in Education. They run Google's Chrome OS instead
of Windows or macOS. Available from a number of manufacturers, they can
be priced lower than other comparable laptops.
Chromebooks are intended to be used mostly when connected to the
Internet with documents saved to the cloud. It's possible to use Google
Docs and Microsoft Office, YouTube, and anything that can be viewed in a
Increasingly, Chromebooks are available that can run Android apps,
and many of these apps can also be used offline. Our Special Stories
and Special Words apps can be installed on a Chromebook by downloading
from Google Play.
Special Stories on Chromebook
Special Words on Chromebook
In the photo on the
leftfirst photo above we are running
Special Stories on an ASUS Chromebook. As well as controlling the app
using the touch-screen, you can also enter text from the keyboard, tap
using the touchpad and optionally use a wireless mouse. You can print
and email your stories, and share stories over Wi-Fi with other devices
running Special Stories (Chromebooks, Android phones and tablets,
iPhones and iPads).
The photo on the
rightsecond photo above shows the
same Chromebook folded so it can be used as a tablet, and running
Special Words. All the standard features of Special Words on Android,
including sharing word lists with Android and iOS devices, can be used
in exactly the same way as on an Android tablet or phone.
If you look closely, you will see a row of app icons along the bottom
of the first screen. This is the Chromebook "shelf", and is similar to
the Windows task bar or macOS dock. With recent versions of Chrome OS,
you can easily hide the shelf (as on the second screen).
If you are using several Chromebooks in a school, be aware that to
use paid Android apps such as ours, you need to purchase one copy of the
app for each Chromebook. Please contact us if you have any questions
about licensing and deployment.
January 5, 2019 - Visit to Albania
Colin will be in Tirana, capital of Albania, later this month as a
guest of the Down Syndrome Albania
Foundation and Services Centre. He will be training parents and
teachers of children with Down syndrome on how to use our Special Words
and Special Stories apps.
This has been made possible with the help of
Vodafone Albania, whose support
includes donating 40 Samsung tablets to the Centre, as well as
additional funding from
Foundation. Back in December 2013, Bev and Colin, the founders of
Special iApps, received a Mobile for Good Award
from the Vodafone Foundation.
To coincide with Colin's visit, we have updated Special Words and
Special Stories, for Android and iOS, with full support for Albanian
(shqip), which is the official language of Albania and Kosovo, and
spoken by a significant number of people in surrounding countries.
November 30, 2018 - Updates for iPad and iPhone
This week we released updates to 5 of our apps on the App Store:
Special Words, Special Words Pro, Special Stories, Special Numbers and
Match & Find. These all now fully support iOS 12.1 and Apple's
latest devices, including the new 11" and 12.9" iPad Pro models, and the
iPhone XR, XS and XS Max.
We have also added "dark mode" support to Special Numbers (already
supported by the other apps). Dark mode is where the background is
black and text white instead of the other way round, and available on
iOS 11 and later via the device's Settings > General >
Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Invert Colours > Smart
Dark mode isn't just useful in low light conditions, or as a way to
reduce battery drain on newer devices with OLED displays: it can be very
beneficial for some children with visual impairment. Our apps
automatically detect when dark mode has been enabled, and adjust their
colour scheme accordingly, as
in Special Words.
November 22, 2018 - Important Updates for Android
We have today released updated versions of our Special Stories and
Special Words apps for Android. These address a number of issues,
including crashing and inability to take pictures or record sound, as
well as printing-related issues in Special Stories. Thank you to those
who have reported problems.
We strongly recommend all Android users update to the latest versions
of our apps on the Google Play Store.
If you have Android 5 or earlier, your device will prompt you to
grant all the permissions any app needs in order to install or upgrade
it. On Android 6 and later, you have finer control over the permissions
granted to each app, and you can manage this from the device's settings
at any time.
In order to add content, both Special Stories and Special Words
require permission to use the camera, microphone and storage. The
updated versions will now ask you for permission when you take a new
photo, choose an existing photo, or record your voice (if you haven't
already granted these).
As always, if you have any difficulties or other questions, please
let us know.
November 2, 2018 - Bett Awards 2019 Finalist
We are thrilled to announce that our app Match & Find has just
been shortlisted as a finalist for the Bett Awards 2019 in the 'Special
Educational Needs Solutions' category. We designed Match & Find to
help train and improve children's working memory. This is where the
brain temporarily holds information while it is processing it - you need
a good working memory for lots of aspects of mental development,
including literacy and numeracy.
In September we released an update for Match & Find which means
it is now available on iPhone and iPod touch. You can now use the fun
activities within the app wherever you go, without needing your iPad!
Find out more about the main changes in our previous blog
The Bett Awards are a celebration of inspiring creativity and
innovation in technology for education. They are an integral part of the
Bett Show, the world's leading
showcase of education technology solutions, held in London.
Our Special Words and Special Stories apps were finalists last time
round in the Bett Awards 2018.
The winners of the 2019 awards will be announced on January 23. Keep
your fingers crossed for us!
September 25, 2018 - Match & Find - now for iPhone too!
We are pleased to announce the immediate availability of Match & Find version 2. For users of version 1, this is a free update.
We designed Match & Find to help train and improve children's
working memory. This is where the brain temporarily holds information
while it is processing it - you need a good working memory for lots of
aspects of mental development, including literacy and numeracy. Now you
can use the fun activities in Match & Find on your iPhone wherever you
go, without needing your iPad!
Match & Find running on iPhone
These are the main changes in version 2:
A fresh new look, more like our other apps
Compatible with iPad and now also iPhone and iPod touch
Compatible with iOS 12 (still supporting iOS 8 to 11)
Compatible with "Smart Inverse Colours" in iOS 11 and 12
Child safety gate (parental lock) for links out of the app
Bug fixes (including for issues with audio not playing)
The app includes built-in help, and you can find full
details of everything it has to offer in its
detailed User Guide on our website.
Currently-supported languages are English (UK and US), Catalan, French,
German, Norwegian, Polish and Spanish.
Match & Find is also available as part of our Special Collection
bundle, which also includes Special Words, Special Stories and Special
Numbers, at a reduced price compared with purchasing individually.
September 19, 2018 - How schools can purchase apps
We have heard from many teachers and schools who are confused by the
process of buying apps. To help make things easy and clear, our Sales
and Marketing Manager, Dan, has wrote this simple guide on how you can
purchase apps through Apple School Manager.
What is Apple School Manager?
Apple recently introduced Apple School Manager which brings managing
your devices and purchasing apps together in one place for your
schools. It is the new home for iTunes U which allows you to share
content, the Device Enrolment Programme for registering your devices
with an mobile device management (MDM) system and the Volume Purchase
Program (VPP) for purchasing and downloading apps from the Education
Through VPP, when schools purchase 20 or more copies of an app from a
participating developer, they are given a 50% discount of the total
cost. This means if you're total spend on 20 apps is £300, you will
get those 20 apps for £150.
Apple School Manager should help to keep things simple for stressed
and over-stretched teachers and admin staff. It gives your school one
central place in which to control everything instead of navigating
across multiple different logins and Apple ID’s.
What if my School already has a Volume Purchase Programme (VPP) account?
If your school is already signed up to VPP, that’s great! You can
continue to use the existing Volume Store. However, migrating your
existing VPP account to Apple School Manager is very quick and straight
Migrating your VPP Account to Apple School Manager
Apple have called this Invite your current VPP Account to Apple
Below Institution Settings, choose Enrollment Information
Click Invite VPP Programme Facilitator at the bottom of the
Enter the Apple ID of the VPP Account you want to invite
You will receive an email with a link to join your School and you’ll
be asked to upgrade account. Click that link, and you're good to go!
Selecting and purchasing apps
If you've managed to get all set up then this next part is truly
easy. Well, once you've decided what to buy out of the two millions apps
Search for an app through Apple School Manager
Enter the quantity you'd like to
purchase. Remember, if you're buying over 20 you are usually given a
50% discount on your purchase.
Choose a way to distribute your apps. Select Managed
Distribution to assign, revoke, and reassign apps to devices and users
through your MDM solution
Enter your payment and billing information and the
apps are all yours!
If you're looking for an app from Special iApps, a shortcut is to
visit our website
at www.specialiapps.org from
your PC, Mac or iPad (not iPhone), tap the Download for your
School badge near the top, and select the app from the drop-down
list. That will take you directly to the Education Store page for the
Hopefully this guide has helped to demystify the app purchasing
process. We hope to see many more schools around the world downloading
our apps and using them to make a difference for your pupil's
education. If you have any more technical queries, send us your messages
to us by email or on our
or Twitter pages.
September 11, 2018 - Communication is a two-way street
Effective home-school communication is an essential part of any
child's development. Having these positive lines of communication
enables pupils to receive consistency with their education, care and
support both at home and school. It can aid their learning, development
and overall wellbeing.
At the end of the day, parents and teachers are on the same team. Be
open and honest as it allows both parties to share their ideas and
create better opportunities for the child. Let your child's teacher know
if things are different at home as it could be affecting their behaviour
or work within the classroom. It provides them with a better
understanding of their pupil's needs and requirements so they are better
equipped to meet them.
The same goes for teachers - let parents know if your pupil seems to
be having difficulties within school or there are areas of concern. This
transparency is all about what's best for the child, it could be that
something is working at school and not at home or vice versa. Likewise,
make them aware of their child's achievements! Boosting children's
self-esteem through positive communication with their parents is an
A vital aspect of creating successful opportunities for children with
additional needs is to establish, and maintain, strong and effective
relationships between schools and families. This allows them to develop
their skills and continue their learning, regardless of whether they are
at home or in the classroom. This is of particular importance for
children who have difficulties communicating as they need the people
around them to be their advocates to pass on information for them. A
child may not be able to tell their family what happened at school that
day, what they had for lunch, how they felt, what they enjoyed or what
caused them distress. This means communication between home and school
becomes even more significant.
There are a number of ways that you can use our apps to develop your
home-school communication. They are all simple, effective and take no
time at all to use, a great bonus for busy teachers and parent rushed
off their feet.
Create a visual diary of their day:
With our app Special Stories,
you can create visual stories of what your pupil did at school that
day. Capture photos of them completing their work, taking part in group
tasks, or even snap a photo of what they had for their dinner that
day. These social stories can provide such valuable insight for parents,
allowing them to communicate with their child in ways that may have
previously been very limited.
Creating stories within the school environment can also help children
deal with the anxiety of starting school or returning to school after a
long break. It can help them to prepare for the change and become
gradually comfortable with an environment over time, rather than
confronting a strange place for several hours one day at the start of
term. You can read more about how to achieve this in our blog
post from last month here.
Parents can also create stories of their child's home life, their
likes and dislikes, and who is in their family. This gives their school
teachers a way to understand them better and know more about their
life. William has used Special Stories since primary school and now
continues to use it within his secondary school education. His teaching
assistants send home a story of the work he has completed in each class
during the day, and in turn we create social stories over the weekend so
they can see what he has done at home and talk with him about it during
Adapt their homework:
Not every child will be able to complete their homework using
traditional methods. Pen and paper isn't for everyone! With
our Special Words app, you can adapt
the homework you are giving for the week by creating a new word list
with all the things you want them to learn at home. Perhaps you want
them to learn a new set of vocabulary, about the seasons or specific
holidays, even about the Romans or Egyptians.
We have a number of free curriculum resources for you to download
into Special Words Pro which can help support your curriculum and with
adapting homework into the app. Find out more about the resources we
Did you know that you can email content from Special Words and
Special Stories? It's one of the many ways to transfer content and a
great way to communicate with your child's teacher or your pupil's
family. You could send a weekly story of what they have achieved or
email completed homework back to school. Emailing content from the app
is a way to keep communication frequent and immediate. It's better to
know what your child has been doing that day rather than waiting for
Are there any ways you have used our apps to help support home-school
communication? We really value all your feedback so get in touch with us
or find us on social media (@specialiapps). You can even email your
Special Stories to us, we'd love to see them!