Our Blog

September 5, 2018 - Special Words and children with EAL

It has been said that the beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you. Developing new skills and acquiring new knowledge is one of the most exciting things about our academic life. However, what about if your native language is different to everyone else around you? Just how do you develop in an environment that is speaking foreign to you?

Max, a native Russian speaker, using Special Words

Many children are now arriving at English-speaking schools only able to speak in their native language with a non-existent or limited range of English vocabulary. This in turn means they are unable to communicate with their classmates and teachers, hindering their social and language skills, educational development and ability to adapt to the culture around them. Their language learning needs are sometimes overlooked within educational texts, as well as in the wider school environment. It becomes assumed that these young children will simply "pick up" English naturally and be fluent in it in no time at all. These are high expectations to have for children, particularly when learning English comes with not only developing their linguistic ability but understanding how to socially converse within this new social and cultural context.

This is where Special Words and Special Words Pro can enter to help the child develop their language skills and sight word vocabulary. Special Words currently includes 26 languages and we are continuing to add to our translations across our apps and on our website. Special Words, as well as its Pro edition, provides you with an initial list of 96 written words with correlating pictures and audio. From this, you can then add fully personalised content to match the child's development, adapt to their language needs and expand their current knowledge to coincide with the curriculum.

You are then able to use six different activities, each of which aim to strengthen specific areas and levels of a child's ability. For example, the activity Match Words relies on visual strength and reinforces language and literacy skills. This activity is not so much about being to read the word but about being to identify the length and shape of specific words. Word to Picture develops a child's receptive language skills whereas Picture to Word strengthens sight word vocabulary and understanding of words. We also have two sound matching activities, added as requested by speech therapists, which help to support and develop expressive language.

In parallel to this, these apps can also allow you as a teacher, therapist or professional to assess the knowledge of the English language that the child currently has. This pre-assessment will provide you a foundation on which to base their learning on before pushing their understanding and learning of new knowledge within the curriculum guidelines. It can also help you to identify areas of weakness and key aspects to work on in the short term, such a conversational language, which will help the child integrate socially into the class. After all, a large proportion of the language we all learn comes from our social interactions.

As an teacher, this would also be a great opportunity to educate the rest of your class. Being bilingual or multilingual is something that should be celebrated within your classroom. These children can teach the others about their language and culture, universally developing everyone's language skills. Even if the other children only ever learn a few simple words, it's more than they could all converse with before. It's a great way to develop every child's social skills, of accepting other cultures and being open to the wider world around them.

Learning the English language is not about replacing a child's native culture. It is about retaining their native culture while developing their understanding of their new adopted culture. It is about breaking communication barriers and nurturing an inclusive environment in which everyone can converse.

We would love to hear from those of you who have used Special Words with a children who is learning English as an additional language (EAL). How did the app help them to progress? What ways did it allow you as an educator to assess their language skills? Is there anything else that helped you to develop their English language alongside our app? Whatever the case, we'd love to hear from you so feel free to send us an email (support@specialiapps.org) or contact us on our social media channels (@specialiapps).

September 1, 2018 - Special iApps turns 7

Special iApps is 7 years old today! The time has certainly flown by and there have been many exciting developments over this past year.

As we're sure you all know by now, back in June, Bev was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen's Birthday Honours List 2018. She was awarded the MBE for her services to exports in educational technology for people with learning disabilities. It is incredibly well deserved and we're all very proud that her hard work is recognized in such a way.

The Old Rectory, Houghton-le-Spring

Over this past year, Special iApps has also expanded. We welcomed Dan Gilchrist as our Sales and Marketing Manager and Rebecca Whitcombe as our Digital and Social Media Coordinator. We're very excited for the year ahead with our growing team and look forward to seeing what is to come.

Two of our apps were also finalists in the Bett Awards 2018 back in January. Special Stories was a Finalist in the Special Educational Needs Solutions category and Special Words in the International Digital Education Resource category.

We also added Special Words Pro and Special Words Web to our repertoire. The Web edition of the original app allows you to "try before you buy" for 28 days. This is a limited version of the app but great if you just want to get a feel of what Special Words can do. The Pro edition is fantastic for teachers, therapists, professionals and parents who are looking to get more out of the app with their children.

Today we have also moved into our lovely new office in the Old Rectory at Houghton-le-Spring, pictured here. It's a 15-minute drive from where we were in Durham. To go with the new office we have a new telephone number. From the UK: 0191 389 6638. From abroad: +44 191 389 6638. Outside of UK business hours, you can leave a message, or contact us in other ways.

August 19, 2018 - Preparing for Your New Class

School add-ons for our apps

The new academic year is coming round fast! For many teachers, this is a time for preparation, of endless printing, decorating display boards and detailed planning for your year group's curriculum. Special iApps are here for the year ahead (and beyond!) to support all newly-qualified and experienced teachers in the education of children with additional needs.

Here is a quick rundown of our apps which can help support and reinforce learning this year for children with a range of abilities and skill sets. You can create personalised activities within the apps to support your pupils and curriculum.

Special Numbers

This app helps to develop those all important early number skills for children within EYFS. The clean interface means the app is free from distractions and is not sensory overwhelming, a particular bonus for many children with autism.

The actives within Special Numbers aim to help children understand the different parts to a number; the name, symbol, value and order. The app is easily configured to suit a range of abilities and can be personalised to individual pupil's interests. No matter whether you're class is learning to count 1-5 or ordering the numbers 1-20, there are activities for everyone to learn from.

Special Numbers has also been noted by speech therapists to help with sound production. Even just simply going through the numbers 1-10, you have a good range of sounds at the beginning and ends of words with those tricky 'f' and 's' sounds.

Special Stories

This app has so many wonderful possibilities! It is a great way to encourage home-school communication between yourselves and the parents. For William, we create a social story of what he got up to at the weekend and in turn, school give us a daily story about what he has done in class each day. This communication can only benefit a pupil who may be needing some extra academic support. It's also a great way to help support homework tasks too! William has had homework sent home through Special Stories all about learning the Roman numerals or even about the cells within a plant. We've said it before and we'll say it again, the possibilities really are endless! Special Stories can be used as far as your imagination will take you.

Through creating social stories, Special Stories also encourages the development of spoken language, improves reading skills and helps with a child's social skills. The app can be used to support your curriculum, create visual timetables and very easily become part of your teaching plan.

Special Words Pro

This app is going to become your best friend in a matter of no time. The range of activities, which you can fully personalise, encourage pupil's communication, language and physical development, as well as their personal, social and emotional development. As a pupil's vocabulary expands, you can very easily add new content to the app to encourage further development. Special Words is also a great way to engage children with technology while also using is alongside traditional and holistic teaching methods. The app can also be used in collaboration with Special Stories to reinforce the learning and support your curriculum.

Special Words Pro has all the fantastic features of the standard edition of the app but it also includes printing, assessment sheets, dual control and an ever-growing library of curriculum resources. Don't say we don't give you anything! Find our more about the curriculum resources we currently offer.

Curriculum Resources

We also have a Teacher's Manual designed to give practical advice to teachers following EYFS and National Curriculum. It provides a comprehensive and workable collection of ideas to assist teachers in the education of children with additional needs using Special Words or Special Words Pro. This manual presents clear instructions for using the app, downloading from the library of additional add-ons and assessment procedures.

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If you aren't familiar with our apps yet, give them a try before your school returns from the summer vacations. They're very easy to learn and you'll be a pro at them in no time. You'll be able to hit the ground running with your Special iApps knowledge come the start of term.

We hope the academic year gets off to a great start for you and your pupils. Have a wonderful time with your year group and happy learning!

August 15, 2018 - Preparing for the new school year

Special Stories - William in his school uniform

School uniform - check.
Smart new shoes - check.
Shiny pencil case - check.
Special iApps ready on the tablet - check!

Getting ready for going back to school can be an exciting time. The children get to pick their new shoes and enjoy the novelty of wearing a smart uniform. We've all had the back to school fashion show, it's a defining moment of every August in the UK and other countries in the Northern Hemisphere.

However, all this excitement and change can become very overwhelming for many children. Their familiar routines are disturbed and changing after a peaceful summer spent playing. They are faced with meeting many new faces and being in new environments that can seem rather scary for small children. Many are starting nursery or school for the very first time, others moving up a year or even transitioning to the next stage of their academic life. There are an endless array of ever changing factors that are altered for children. Life never remains the same as we get older, we are continuously transitioning from one stage to the next.

This big new step in life doesn't have to be something to fear or be anxious over. It's perfectly normal for some people to need extra help to explain and introduce new faces and new routines. This is where our Special Stories app comes in. It is being used around the world in lots of ways, within many homes and schools, 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.

We have also free add-ons for Special Words that depict the school surroundings, to help familiarise and initiate conversations. We hope that these images will be useful as your child moves up through the school years, starts a new school or just to help them readjust to school life after the long summer break. You can even add your own words, photos and audio to personalise the content and tailor it to your child's specific needs and environment. One great idea is to take photos of your child's new classroom, the corridors they will be walking and the teachers they will be seeing every day. This will help to familiarise them to the change so as not to have an overwhelming first day come the start of term.

So whatever this new academic year may hold, we hope that with the help of Special iApps and our range of apps, your child can have a smooth transition into their next stage of life. Good luck to everyone going back to school and we hope you have a wonderful time learning!

August 10, 2018 - William and his chocolate factory

Easter may have been three months ago but if you're a family like us, you're bound to have lost of chocolate eggs left over. The children always seem to get such an abundance of chocolate that we're sure even Willy Wonka would be astonished!

While there's no doubt the little ones would happily devour all the chocolate in sight, there is only so much they can eat before they crash into a sugar lull. This is why we stagger out the chocolate over the coming months and save a few Easter eggs for some summer fun. With the hot weather we have had here in the UK recently, doing something with melted chocolate felt like a must!

One for William. One for the melting bowl.
Let's make some chocolate shapes!

We started by collecting all the equipment we needed, a melting pot, silicone moulds, piping tubes and those all important chocolate Easter eggs. William then broke up all the chocolate into small piece and carefully melted it in the pot, stirring until it was all smooth. We decided to use this plug in melting pot as it was safer than using the microwave or hob, meaning William could have full control of this chocolate experience and could gain independence.

Once everything was melted, William slowly scooped all the chocolate into a variety of moulds. This was certainly messy work! William, his t-shirt and the table were covered, but it was all in the name of fun.

After leaving the melted chocolate to set in the fridge, the big decision came. How should we decorate our chocolates? With World Honey Bee Day coming up on August 18th, and World Chocolate Day having been on July 7th, it was simple. Chocolate bees were the way forward! William piped yellow icing in stripes on the solid chocolate shapes and added delicate sugar paper wings. Suddenly he had created a colony of sweet little honey bees.

Carefully pour the melted chocolate into the mounds until it's all gone
Pipe the bee's stripes
Add some wafer wings
Now enjoy your hard work!

Through this chocolate fun, William was able to develop his coordination, fine motor skills and sensory skills, all of which are incredibly important for children with special educational needs and disabilities. Due to William's limited finger skills, piping the icing into small lines was a challenging task. It would have been easy for us to just jump in and do it for him, but this would not develop his fine motor skills or his confidence at completing tasks independently. We were there to be his chocolate cheerleaders and patiently sit with him as he conquered the piping tube. Go William!

If you would like to see the full step-by-step process of William making the chocolate bees, head over to our Facebook to enjoy what we created with the help of Special Stories. We have a special photo album with the complete story there.

August 6, 2018 - Special Words and farm animals

William using his iPad

Developing from experiences with William is something very important to us, it is one of the reasons we developed the collection of apps we currently have. Using them in tandem has such an impact not only on children's educational development but on their social and communicational skills too. Who knew apps could do so much!

After visiting Broom House Farm, we used the activities in Special Words to develop more of an understanding and recognition of the farm animals. In the original 96 word list, we have the written and spoken words, as well as the pictures, for duck, pig, sheep and cow. However, with the stage William is at, we wanted to develop further past this simple level.

Being able to transfer content between our apps is a fantastic feature! We were able to transfer our farm story into Special Words, having personalised photographs from the adventures and creating more advanced words. Instead of just "pig" we titled the photo of the daddy pig as "boar" and of the baby pigs as "piglets". It's simple to create a new word list and can be done as you are having fun around the farm. You can take new photos of different animals and objects to help improve your little ones' language skills.

The great thing about Special Words, as well as our other apps, is that children can grow with them. As they develop and gain a greater understanding of the world, this can be reflected into the app's content. Special iApps will hopefully become your go-to tool and friend for life!

Some animal cards supplied with Special Words
Photos of farm animals we added to Special Words

Sue, who is a Makaton trainer, told us how Special Words was helping her son to improve his speech, pronunciation, fine motor skills, hand eye co-ordination, recognition of words and objects. The app can be changed to grow with him as his vocabulary expands. It is brilliant for children with additional learning needs, it capitalizes on visual learning, it is a fun interactive game that would also be useful for pre-school children.  You can read more reviews under the "Our Apps" section on our website.

It would be great to hear from more of you too! We would love to know how you're using the apps, how you personalise the apps to grow alongside your children and what impact Special iApps has had. Feel free to send us an email (support@specialiapps.org) or message us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We hope to hear from you all soon, but in the meantime, happy learning!

August 1, 2018 - Down at the Farm

Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O

William eating lunch at Broom House Farm

We had had some wonderful weather recently here in Durham, UK, so what better time than to visit a local farm. Broom House Farm is a lovely place for children to explore the outdoors and see animals in their natural environment. It's also perfect to help the little ones burn off their never-ending energy!

One of our favorite things to do on outings with William is to create a memory using Special Stories. It is a great way to share moments with our family and friends. It becomes a digital photo-album that we can easily carry with us wherever we go. The app also helps William in a number of ways, improving his reading and spoken language as well as his social skills. It's a win-win all round!

After a wonderful lunch at Broom House Coffee Shop (which William demolished may we add!) we wandered around the grounds of the farm, capturing his interactions with the animals and surroundings. The farm also has a number of small windmills which were a must to be included in this story, they're one of William's favorite things!

At broom house farm.
Watched the ducks.
Lots of Piglets. Baby pigs.

Using Special Stories alongside William meant he was involved in creating the social story and had a valuable input. He showed us what he wanted us to take photographs of and could verbally communicate about all the animals we were seeing. One of the great things about Special iApps is that children of any ability can be involved and take full control of using the apps. They can be in the driving seat of their experiences and learning!

In a few days we will have another blog heading your way all about how we developed from this initial adventure. We'll show you how we used our other apps alongside this story and the benefits they can have when working in tandem. We'd love to hear your stories all about how you use our apps so be sure to share them with us on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

July 19, 2018 - Learning the Signs for Garden Wildlife

Learning the sign for hedgehog

Over the past week in our blogs, we have shown you different ways you can use Special Stories and Special Words in collaboration from just one single outing. Well, we aren't going to stop there! We have one more final tip for you all.

Learning new skills and developing existing ones is a continuous process and it takes time. With help from Special iApps, your child can gain from the educational impact our apps have while still having fun. You can also tailor the apps to their specific interests or hobbies to help keep them engaged.

As we have recently been learning all about butterflies and their life cycle with William, it seemed a perfect opportunity to learn the sign language for garden wildlife with My 1st Signs. Our app includes the wonderful BSL sign graphics from the Let's Sign BSL Series by Cath Smith of Deaf Books.

Butterfly in My 1st Signs
Ant in my 1st Signs

We used the app to learn the BSL for butterfly and caterpillar, as well as a whole range of other small animals and creepy crawlies you would find in the garden. William then played with all the activities the app has to offer to help him learn each of the words. Sign language can benefit any child! It encourages them to interact and communicate which in turn will develop their social skills.

Practice your BSL with the little ones this weekend. Download My 1st Signs for your iPad today and let us know how you all get on. We love to hear the ways Special iApps is supporting children's learning.

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July 17, 2018 - Life cycle of a butterfly!

In our blog last week, we showed you our recent outing to a local butterfly house at Houghall Plant Centre here in Durham. We used Special Stories to create a personal story book of William's adventure. However, we did not want the learning to end there.

Reading about the lifecycle of a butterfly

There are many ways our apps can work in tandem to reinforce their educational benefits, as well as improving many of your child's social and developmental skills. Content can easily be shared between Special Stories and Special Words in no time at all. We particularly enjoy being able to use the stories we created with the different activities Special Words offers. It's great for homework tasks!

Speaking of Special Words, we have a number of curriculum resources available in the Pro edition of Special Words (you can compare editions here). Special Words Pro is great for teachers, therapists, professionals and parents who are looking to do more with their child. There a range of resources to download, from the seasons and the solar system, to history and our understanding of the world.

One of the curriculum resources we currently offer is the Life Cycle of a Butterfly, perfect to use alongside the story we recently created at the butterfly house. What a coincidence!

Life cycle of a butterfly in Special Words Pro

Picture to word matching

Life cycle of a butterfly in Special Words Pro

Word to word matching

Upon downloading the butterfly resource, William spent the afternoon using it within all the activities of Special Words Pro. He had great fun matching the words and pictures together! We also transferred the resource into Special Stories. This meant he could read along with the life cycle of a butterfly, gaining more of an understanding of how butterflies come to be while also developing his reading and language skills.

If you use our curriculum related resources, let us know what your child or pupils think! How did it help as a learning tool and what kind of Special iApps resources would you like to see in the future? Let us know over on our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Happy learning!

July 11, 2018 - We're Off to See the Butterflies!

William reading his story about the butterflies

We are very lucky where we live here in Durham, UK, as there are so many wonderful places to take William. He is able to regularly have new experiences, see new things and explore the world around him.

We recently went on a little trip to Houghall Plant Centre, where amongst all the shrubs and flowers sits a small butterfly house. On a cold day, the warmth of the conservatory makes for a very inviting environment!

When we went inside, William went straight to the mini waterfall and became fixated on the water feature. Upon realizing we were not going to be leaving any time soon, we began making a Special Story of the butterfly house. We snapped away around the environment, capturing photos of the butterflies, a snail, the chrysalis and William's favorite feature, that all important waterfall.

After spending a wonderful time amongst nature, we returned home where William excitedly showed the family his newest story! To make his social story even more personalised, he recorded the audio for each page, reading out loud the text we had written.

Watching the waterfall
A butterfly

Creating the stories is a simple and quick activity that you can produce as you go! It will not interrupt your day or take up any of your precious time at home printing and sticking a photo book together. With Special Stories, you are able to carry your story books with you wherever you go and can transfer the content to our Special Words app. It all couldn't be easier! Our user guides explain the many ways of transferring content between our apps.

User Guides

Our apps have a number of educational and social benefits, especially when used in combination. They reinforce the learning experience, helping to encourage spoken language, increase sight word vocabulary and improve fine motor skills. Communication is key to development and the use of our apps can hep progress this important social skill.

For this little adventure with William, we were able to make a talking story book, but there are no limits to what you can do with Special Stories! You can use it for learning new skills, photo albums, step-by-step instructions, recipes and so much more. We would love to know the different ways you all use Special Stories! Share your photos and anecdotes about making the stories with us on our social media channels Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or feel free to drop us an email at: support@specialiapps.org.

July 10, 2018 - Dan Gilchrist joins Our Team

Dan Gilchrist

We are very pleased to welcome Dan Gilchrist to the team at Special iApps, as Sales and Marketing Manager.

Dan joins us with a wealth of experience in Sales and Technology. His previous role at Apple for the past 5 years has allowed him to work closely with businesses and education in the North East of England. He has collaborated in hosting business and education events, and recently participated at the Apple World Education Summit in London.

Dan's real passion for Special Needs comes from first-hand personal experience playing a vital role for his 8 year old nephew who has autism.

Dan enjoys running and will be participating in his 5th Great North Run this September.

June 26, 2018 - What's in the Shopping Bag?

If you read our previous blog post, you will have seen the grocery adventure we recently had with William. It was wonderful to see his face light up as he collected the items for our dinner that night.

After we created the initial story using our Special Stories app, we wanted to take the learning experience that one step further. We decided to create a story all about what was in our shopping bag that day. Having taken a picture of each item individually, we then captioned the fruit and vegetables and William recorded the audio for each page. This may seem like a simple idea but it is a great way to encourage spoken language and have them involved in the families routine tasks.

Fruit and vegetables in Special Stories

Special Stories

Fruit in Special Words

Special Words

Another great way to use Special Stories is to create a small shopping list specially for the children. You can take a photograph of each item that you need them to collect on the adventure. This in turn provides a visual aid for them to follow around the grocery store. It becomes a treasure hunt of sorts for them to complete. And what little one doesn't love a treasure hunt!

We have one more special tip to reinforce and develop the educational aspect of this shopping journey. You can transfer your stories into Special Words so the children have new activities to play and learn with. Our user guides explain the many ways of transferring content between our apps.

User Guides

June 21, 2018 - Shopping

The weekly food shopping can be something of a chore. You seem destined to end up with the cart that has a wonky wheel and the checkout queues always feel a mile long.

Have you ever thought about your child being your special little helper on the trip? William was certainly ours! Over the half-term vacation from school, we visited the local farm shop to pick up some ingredients for our dinner that night. We could not have done it all without his help!

William in the farm shop

Food shopping doesn't have to be a task you dread doing, especially when you have a star helping you out. There are a number of things you can to do make the shopping into a fun and educational outing for them, and you! For us, Special Stories is perfect for this activity.

William carried the basket around the shop and filled it with all the items on our list. As he excitedly picked the meat, fruit and vegetables, we snapped away on the iPad to create a Special Story all about our shopping adventure. When we got home, he was able to show the rest of the family how he helped to collect everything for our meal. Over dinner we talked about his visit to the farm shop, what he picked up and how he helped pack the bags. The story we created with William became a great talking point!

Special Stories is a great way to improve communication but it can also help to improve your child's recognition. By taking photographs of them within the grocery store, they will begin to recognize the environment more and be familiar with the layout. You could then give them their own little shopping list to follow with a step-by-step story of photographs from around the shop. It's a simple tool to transform a mundane task into a highly beneficial experience.

The stories you create can have a number of benefits for your children. Being able to personalise the photos, text and audio can help to improve their reading skills, encourage their spoken language and help with their social skills. It can also help you as a parent to explain routine tasks in a clear and simple way.

There are many ways you can develop from your shopping experience and we have another great blog all about how coming up very soon! Keep an eye on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to be the first to know about our latest blogs and Special iApps updates.

June 17, 2018 - Father's Day

Father's Day is celebrated today in several countries, including the UK, US, Canada and Ireland. We wanted to wish all the Dads, Step-Dads and father figures out there a very happy Fathers Day. This is a day to appreciate you and all that you do to help guide your children through life. It's a day to say thank you for being there on the nights when the little ones are poorly. To say thank you for making up the best bedtime stories about knights and princesses. To say thank you for all the adventures you take them on.

Special Stories, William and Colin

We're sure you all agree that Dads deserve something extra special on this day! We think Special Stories is perfect for creating a personalised gift and capturing all those loving moments. You can make a story using family photos with each page being a different reason why the children love him, reasons he is amazing or why they are thankful for him. By personalising the audio, each page can have a very special message from the little ones to their Dad.

If you made a Special Story this Fathers Day, let us know how they liked it! We'd love to see your creations so be sure to share your stories with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and use the hashtag #SpecialStories.

So to all the Dads celebrating today, thank you for all that you do. Thank you for being you.

June 14, 2018 - Update for Special Numbers

Special Numbers

An update to Special Numbers for iPad and iPhone is now available on the App Store. As always, it's free to upgrade from previous versions.

We have tweaked this version for iOS 11 and the 10.5" iPad Pro. We have also added a child safety gate (parental lock), that works similarly to the gate in Special Words and Special Stories.

Please note that the earliest version of iOS this will run on is 8.4.1 - unfortunately we are no longer able to support iOS 6 and 7.

Special Numbers is a great app for learning early number skills, including counting, matching, ordering and comparing, and is very easy to adjust for different skill levels. It currently includes text and audio in English, Catalan, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Spanish and Turkish. You can quickly add your own words and record audio for any other language.

More about Special Numbers

June 9, 2018 - Beverley Dean MBE

Bev with her son William and his iPad

Just over a month ago, an envelope came through the door. This was certainly no ordinary envelope as it had 'On Her Majesty's Service' stamped across the top and 'Cabinet Office' across the bottom. A million thoughts ran through Bev and Colin's heads as to what it could be, but never in their wildest dreams could they have imagined what the letter inside would say.

So, without further ado, we are delighted to tell you that Bev has been appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen's Birthday Honours List 2018! She has been awarded the MBE for her services to exports in educational technology for people with learning disabilities.

This has certainly been a hard secret to keep and we are thrilled we are able to finally tell you all. We're not sure for how much longer Bev would have been able to keep this a secret!

These past few weeks have been overwhelming to say the least. To think how far Special iApps has come since 2011 is remarkable. Our apps are now in many different languages and are transforming the lives of children all around the world. We are incredibly happy that all of Bev's hard work is being recognized in such an extraordinary way.

We still can't quite believe this is all happening, but could not be more proud of Bev being honored with an MBE. It is going to take some time for this all to sink in, that's for sure. So for now, we await an invitation from The Palace, with a date for the Investiture. In the meantime, we need to add hat shopping to our agenda!

Official Notice of Appointment

June 3, 2018 - Special Words & Special Stories on Android

Using Special Words on Android

Free updates to Special Words and Special Stories for Android are now available on Google Play. These fix a few problems including:

  • Sound-related crashes on a small number of devices
  • Inability to copy some profiles in Special Words
  • Non-random shuffling of cards in Special Words

We recommend all Android users update to the new versions. Thanks to those who have reported issues - we encourage anyone who has a problem with any of our apps to let us know.

Update on Android now

Tell us about a problem

May 29, 2018 - World Bedwetting Day

Bedwetting is an issue we all face with our children and to mark such a hurdle, today is World Bedwetting Day. Did you know that it is now officially recognized as a medical condition from 5 years of age? It can have lots of different causes and it is certainly not your child's fault. These things just happen!

Child using Special Words for Toilet Training

This year's World Bedwetting Day focuses on empowering parents. If you're thinking about toilet training your child or are currently tackling this big milestone, we have some special tips that could make the process that little bit easier for you and your little one.

If your child is already familiar with our apps, great! If not, don't worry. They are simply designed and easily configured to suit your child's specific needs. Special Stories and Special Words are going to become your best friends during this process! We have special toilet training add-ons that can be downloaded into both apps. Details of how to do this at the bottom of this blog.

Special Stories and Special Words focus on communication, understanding and learning, three areas which are a big part of being able to toilet train with success. Children need to learn a whole new set of skills that are unfamiliar to them. They need to communicate their needs be telling you they need to go while understanding the necessary steps to using the toilet.

By playing with the six different activities Special Words has to offer, your child can become familiar with the images and words associated with toilet training. They will come to recognize each object and over time be able to communicate the words to you as you are toilet training. With Special Stories, you can create a "how to..." of using the toilet. By putting together a sequence of actions, they will learn what the routine and process is of using the toilet. With both apps, you are able to personalise the images, words and audio to something your child will find recognizable and can easily understand. You could take photos of your bathroom; the toilet, the sink, the soap, etc, and use them within the app or record your voice saying the words to add extra familiarity to the activities.

Toilet Training with Special Words Toilet Training with Special Stories

It is important to remember to not rush into this big step and that things won't be successful on the first try, or even the twentieth! Toilet training takes time and patience but by preparing your child for this change by using our apps, things will hopefully run that little bit more smoothly.

Let us know over on our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages if you have used our apps for toilet training. We'd love to know if you had success, how you personalised the apps to help your child and most importantly how your child found the whole process.

Good luck!

Instructions for downloading

May 14, 2018 - Rebecca Whitcombe joins Our Team

Rebecca Whitcombe

Today we are delighted to welcome Rebecca Whitcombe to the team at Special iApps. Rebecca has joined us on a 12-week internship as Digital and Social Media Coordinator.

Rebecca studied at Sunderland University, where she gained a First Class B.A. in Photography, Video & Digital Imaging and an MA with Distinction in Curating. She has previously contributed to a number of projects and exhibitions in the UK and abroad.

Rebecca's post is funded with the help of Creative Fuse North East, a partnership between the 5 universities in North East England and many organizations in the region, with the aim of driving innovation and growth.

April 18, 2018 - nasen Live! 2018

nasen Live!

Colin will be exhibiting for us at nasen Live! on July 6th, at the ICC in Birmingham, UK.

nasen (The National Association of Special Educational Needs) is a charity founded in 1992 to support teachers and other practitioners working with children who have special educational needs.

The annual conference is aimed at anyone working or supporting children and young people with SEND. Head over to Stand 38 for more Special iApps information, hands-on demos or just to say hello!

March 22, 2018 - World Down Syndrome Congress 2018

WDSC Glasgow 2018

The World Down Syndrome Congress, held every three years, takes place this year at the SEC in Glasgow, UK. It runs from 25th to 27th July, with over 1,000 delegates expected to attend.

The congress brings together people with Down syndrome, their families, and professionals working in areas including education and health. There will be a wide range of plenary sessions, workshops and presentations, and many opportunities for networking.

We are delighted that our proposals for two sessions at the conference have been accepted. Bev and Colin will be at the SEC for all 3 days of the congress, along with William (who will be celebrating his 13th birthday) and Joseph (now a medical student).

Here are the session details, with links to the abstracts:

Using apps at education center Results from case study

Using iPads and other Tablets to Teach and Assess the Progress of Children with Down Syndrome and Other Learning Disabilities

Workshop on Thursday 26th July at 11:30am

Dr. Colin Dean, CTO, Special iApps
Julie Brown, Advisory Inclusion Teacher for County Durham


William shortly after being born Joe, Colin, William & Bev

Our Family Journey from Pregnancy to Teenage Years

Presentation on Friday 27th July at 2:40pm

Beverley Dean, CEO, Special iApps
Joseph Dean, Newcastle University Medical School

family photoAbstract

Registration for the Congress is now open, and discounted early bird rates apply until 30th April. Come and meet us, and many other delegates from around the world!

Register Now

March 19, 2018 - Special Stories Update

Today we've released an updated version of Special Stories for iPad and iPhone, with 2 main changes.

  • Support for Inverted Colors (Dark Mode)
Special Stories using Smart Invert Colors

This makes use of a feature that Apple introduced in iOS 11. Not all apps and websites support inverted colors, but where they do it can be helpful for children with poor vision or for those who simply prefer a dark background.

You can enable this (if your device is running iOS 11) in the Settings app, under General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Invert Colors. Simply turn on Smart Invert (not Classic Invert). Apple's Clock app has featured inverted colors since iOS 10, so you may recognize the similar appearance of Special Stories, as shown here.

If you'd like to be able to switch quickly in and out of inverted color mode, set the Accessibility Shortcut in the Settings app to Smart Invert, and you can then turn the feature on and off just by triple-clicking the Home button. We suggest you disable Guided Access first, if you have associated that with triple-click.

Our website is now also compatible with inverted colors, and we will be working to support this in some of our other apps.

  • Child Safety Gate (Parental Lock)

You will be presented with the new Child Safety Gate whenever you tap the action button at the top left in the list of stories. It requires you to prove you are an adult, by performing a little calculation, and is just like the gate we introduced in Special Words last November.

This is a feature Apple has asked developers to add to apps for children, to prevent them accidentally getting to things they shouldn't. If you prefer not to use it, you can disable it in the app's settings.

With or without this, you still have the option to lock the app into the story you're reading, by pressing and holding the padlock button (top right in the screenshot above) for 3 seconds.

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