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
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.
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
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
iPad Air and later
iPad mini 2 and later
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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).
New in this update:
If you add your own photos and audio to the app, you can now
share your updated profiles using iCloud Drive.
The app's wide range of adjustable settings are now all in the
app itself, not in the iPad's Settings app.
We've fixed a few minor bugs, and updated the User Guide.
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
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
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
You can apply here to be part of our exciting trial. Be quick to
register though, as places are limited.
Colin flew from England to Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, on Friday
April 28, as guest of
the Ukrainian Charitable Down
Syndrome Organization. His visit was organised by Tania Mykhailenko
(to Colin's left in photos below), who has been liaising with us at
Special iApps since 2011, and has worked tirelessly to get our Special
Words and Special Stories apps translated into Ukrainian and
Tania had gathered together parents and professionals for two 4-hour
workshops, one on Saturday (mainly for children with Down syndrome), and
the other on Sunday (mainly for autism, including
from Autism Ukraine). Many of the
attendees had travelled overnight from distant parts of Ukraine (the
largest country in Eastern Europe) and even from Belarus (a country to
the north of Ukraine).
The first workshop was kindly opened by Creena Lavery, head of
Commercial Section at the British Embassy in Kyiv. We were also pleased
to have Maryna Maiboroda with us - who had translated the Special iApps
website into Ukrainian and Russian.
Workshop attendees on Saturday
Workshop attendees on Sunday
Colin would like to thank everybody who attended for their enthusiasm
and active participation, and subsequent positive feedback on Facebook.
Tania was an absolute star, for having translated the slides and
handouts in advance, and for fluently interpreting between 3 languages
for 8 hours!
Natasha Solo brought her son Max along for the start of the Sunday
workshop. Max has Down syndrome, and will be 4 this month. He had
never seen Special Words before, but figured it out incredibly quickly,
and totally amazed everybody with what he could do in his native
We're celebrating World
Down Syndrome Day next week, as we do every year! March 21st is
recognised by Down Syndrome International as a day to celebrate all the
gifts a life with Down syndrome can bring, where people around the world
take part in raising awareness and fund-raising activities.
WDSD are continuing with their annual LOTS OF SOCKS
campaign, and we're joining in too. Don't forget about our free Sock
add-ons for Special Words
and Special Stories that we
created especially for World Down Syndrome Day.
Where is the Sock in Special Stories
Lots of Socks in Special Words
In our Where is the Sock? add-on, there are lots of
activities to teach children about prepositions (on, under, in,
etc). For use in Special Words, you can always add your own voice for
the new words your child is learning and in Special Stories, our Sock
images can be used to reinforce language acquisition and sentence
In Lots of Socks, there are 20 fun and colourful images of
socks accompanied by the word “socks” in different
languages. It's a fun way to find out about new cultures, and all of the
different languages were provided by our wonderful volunteers.
We'd love to know how you're celebrating World Down Syndrome Day, so
be sure to tag us in your Instagram photos and keep up with us on
Facebook with whatever you get up to.
March 13, 2017 - Special Words in Russian and Visit to Ukraine
We are very pleased to announce that
our Special Words app now supports 25
languages, the latest being Russian. Free updates for existing users
are now available on the App Store and on Google Play.
We would particularly like to thank Tetiana Mykhailenko (Татьяна
Михайленко), the International Liaison Coordinator at
the Ukrainian Charitable Down
Syndrome Organization. Tetania previously helped us with Ukrainian,
and has now provided her voice and the written words for the Russian
Colin is hoping to visit Kyiv (Київ, also known as Kiev), the capital
of Ukraine, at the end of April. He will be leading training workshops
for Ukrainian and Russian speaking parents of children with Down
syndrome and autism, as a guest of the Ukrainian Charitable Down
March 8, 2017 - Northumbria University Research Project
We're currently working together with a group of students from
Northumbria University. Quantum Consultancy Team are helping us raise
our online visibility on an international platform, as well as helping
us understand about customer experience with special educational
If you find yourself with a spare 5 minutes, we'd be very grateful if
you could fill out their questionnaire. It helps us with the
information we need to make Special iApps even better, and it helps our
students with their studies.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact Quantum Consultancy
Team via email.
It's a wonderful way to recognise and enjoy the works of authors and
illustrators and it is celebrated in over 100 Countries around the
World, encouraging children to develop a love of books and reading.
In the UK, children and teachers are asked to dress up as their
favourite book character.
This year Maya is dressing up as Alice in Wonderland – she loves her
beautiful blue dress!
Remember, you could always make your own World Book Day story
using Special Stories.
February 22, 2017 - Rainbow Pancakes for Shrove Tuesday
It's Shrove Tuesday next week, and half term is the perfect time to
practise being creative!
We've made a Special Story about making these
It's a fun way for everyone to get involved making tasty treats, as
well as giving your little helpers a chance to learn about the different
colours you can use when they're being made.
You can follow our guide using this free add-on
for Special Stories, or have a go
at making your own with your children's favourite colours.
Having been shortlisted as a finalist in the "Inspiration" category,
she had a brilliant opportunity to showcase our support of women working
in tech. Be it mothers juggling their work and their families, or young
female professionals looking to break into the technology industry –
Special iApps have always been strong advocates for equality and
determination in the workplace.
We were particularly proud to be part of the evening, and we're very
happy to have had the opportunity to liaise with everywoman UK. A huge
well done to all of the night's winners. Bev had a wonderful evening and
made some great connections with lots of hard-working women. We hope to
see you all at next year's awards!
February 5, 2017 - Wi-Fi sharing between Apple and Android
Lots of people have asked if it's possible to transfer stories and
profiles directly from an Android phone to an Apple iPad, or from an
iPhone to an Android tablet. The answer is, with our latest updates for
iOS and Android, now you can!
click diagram to enlarge
Previously, you had to export as an email attachment on one platform,
and import from the attachment on the opposite platform. Now you can
transfer directly using Wi-Fi.
The sharing options in these apps are very comprehensive (see
diagram) but always under your control.
We are pleased to announce the availability of free updates for
Special Stories on iOS and Android.
The app now supports Romanian and Ukrainian languages: many thanks to
Ileana Gheliuc and Maryna Maiboroda for providing the translations.
We have added a new option, requested by parents, to turn
the pages of a story by swiping to left and right. This is suitable for
children who can swipe more easily than they can tap, and know their
left from their right! You can use the app's settings to enable
On Android, it is now possible in the app's settings to select
standard device fonts instead of the fonts we supply. For devices
running Android 4.4 and later, printing stories and emailing them as PDF
now works for all letters and fonts. Earlier versions of Android do not
offer printing: for these it is possible to create a PDF, but only for
Western European characters, in a Helvetica font.
Colin will be running a training workshop, hosted
by West Coast Down's
Syndrome Support Group, on Thursday 26th 2:00pm-5:00pm. If you can
get to Whitehaven in Cumbria, please come along, and find out how you
can get more out of our apps.
We're delighted to announce that Bev has been nominated in
everywoman in Technology Awards 2017. These awards are dedicated to
acknowledging women who work in tech, and Bev is a finalist in the
‘Inspiration’ category. She's been recognised for her
active commitment to forefronting the progress of women working within
This nomination is especially close to our hearts as both Bev and
Barbara from the Special iApps team pride themselves on juggling the
business as well as being mothers to children with Down syndrome.
Bev started her career developing software in Cambridge, meaning
she's a strong advocate for women who do tech. She hopes her nomination
will help women become more confident to be involved in technological
work places, while encouraging flexible work environments for working
The award ceremony is due to take place February 9th in London, and
we couldn't be more excited to travel down to meet all of the other
inspirational nominees. We'll be live tweeting from the event and
sharing content from everyone involved in the run up to the big day, so
keep an eye on our social media feeds to stay up to date.
It's the perfect time to download our New Year add-ons for Special
Stories and Special Words.
We've kept things clear and simple - but with our usual element of
fun! Let your little ones see the New Year in on Saturday night and
after a lie-in on Sunday, why not make their first Special Story of
Whatever everyone gets up to, we wish you all the best.
To import, you need to already have Special Stories and/or Special
Words. Tap the add-on link above, to open the app. Select Add new
collection (Stories) or Add new profile (Words).
You can then edit the story or word list, to add your own text and
sounds. To return to previously-selected content, use Manage
Collections (Stories) or Manage Profiles (Words). For
help see Support - User Guides.
December 19, 2016 - Special Christmas Stories
We can't believe how quickly Christmas seems to have come round this
year! With everyone so busy and with so much to do, it can be easy to
forget that we should be spending this special festive time together and
making memories with our loved ones.
To help you do just that, our volunteer Jana sent us some brilliant
content about baking Christmas Cookies, created using our Special
It's really easy to replicate at home, or you can even use this idea
to add to your own traditions.
Don't forget about our free festive download for Special Stories to
add even more festive cheer!
December 13, 2016 - Merry Christmas
Happy Holidays from all of us here at Special iApps! It's been a
whirlwind of a year for us, from presenting our apps in Oslo, Barcelona
and Hamburg to extending our team here at home.
We have really enjoyed having Jana & Katha from Newcastle
University, Andrew & Lauren from Northumbria University as interns,
and the Purple Cow project team from Northumbria, and we hope we have
helped them start their careers.
We're hoping for just as much good luck in 2017 - and that you all
find everything you could wish for in the New Year.
December 12, 2016 - Season's Greetings from Special iApps!
Christmas is getting even closer! This year, we've created our own
“12 tips of Christmas” - a fun, festive and colourful series
of holiday tips counting all the way down to the big day.
Each one includes helpful advice of how to get the most out of our
apps over the holiday period, so there's no time like the
“present” to download Special Stories and try it for
We will be publishing the tips on our website during the next two
weeks, so watch this space!
November 29, 2016 - Special Words in Romanian
We are delighted to announce updated versions
of Special Words for iOS and for
Android, now with 24 languages including Romanian.
Our thanks go to Ileana Gheliuc, who translated all the written text
into Romanian, and to Claudia Filipas, who proof-read the text and lent
us her voice for the spoken words.
There are nearly 20 million people in Romania, and several million
native speakers of Romanian living in other countries. Resources and
facilities for children with disabilities in Romania are not as widely
available as in many other countries in Europe and beyond.
We've decided to turn our upcoming Impactathon & Celebration into a
Digital Birthday Party! Special iApps is 5 this year, and it really
couldn't be easier to get involved. We're making some virtual noise with
our first ever Thunderclap – you can take part by following this
When you've clicked to sign up, you'll be part of the growing online
community giving us a shout out on November 26th. There's nothing for
you to check up on or worry about – one click is all it takes! Then our
message will be automatically shared on your social media feed at
12.30pm. It's really that simple to show your support.
We're still very excited about the launch of our brand new Teacher's
Manual, and we're looking for people to try it out alongside our
apps. The manual is not only aimed at Early Years, but is also
applicably adaptable to older children with learning difficulties that
need EYFS material to support their development.
If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, or if you know
anyone working within the Early Years sector, drop us an email at
and we'll set you up with further information.
Finally, Karen Leigh Anderson
from UnLtd Big Venture Challenge
University Centre for Social Innovation is conducting a quick
research survey for us. We'd be really grateful if anyone with
experience of work within the Early Years sector could spare 5 minutes
to have a look into it. We'd also appreciate feedback from anyone
working within a pre-school setting like child-minders, or nursery
nurses working in private day care settings or school based foundation
October 29, 2016 - North East Social Enterprise Festival
We are proud to be a nonprofit social enterprise, and today we are at
the splendid Sage building in Gateshead, just across the River Tyne from
Newcastle, at the second
East Social Enterprise Festival.
Lauren is in charge of our stand, and assisted by William (aged
William has had some setbacks recently, including needing to wear
hearing aids again.
Despite this, he always manages a welcoming smile, and is very
pleased to talk to everybody.
October 27, 2016 - Appcircus Competition - Hamburg
After making it to the final of
todos in Barcelona last week
with Special Stories, we found
ourselves this week
at Appcircus Hamburg
with Special Words!
Every year we hold a celebration to thank our local volunteers and
the families we help. This year is going to be different! Our event is
over 2 days in Newcastle, where we will be unveiling our new Teacher
Manual as well as holding our first ever Impactathon.