Our Blog

May 5, 2017 - Colin's Visit to Ukraine

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 organized 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 Russian.

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 traveled 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 in Kyiv 2017-04-29

Workshop attendees on Saturday

Workshop in Kyiv 2017-04-30

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!

Max using Special Words

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 Russian.

You can see the video we took of Max, on our Ukrainian and Russian sites.

March 24, 2017 - Welcome to Sian Thomas

Sian Thomas

We are very pleased to welcome Sian Thomas to the team at Special iApps.

Sian is joining us as a non-executive director, and brings 25 years experience in the finance industry.

Sian received the Barclays Woman of the year award in 2008 for her contribution to Diversity in her role as Head of the Women's Internal Network. Her youngest child has special educational needs.

Meet the Team

March 17, 2017 - World Down Syndrome Day

We're celebrating World Down Syndrome Day next week, as we do every year! March 21st is recognized 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

Where is the Sock in Special Stories

Lots of Socks in Special Words

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 structure.

Download Now

In Lots of Socks, there are 20 fun and colorful 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.

Download Now

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

Special Words in Russian Special Words in Russian

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 translation.

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 Syndrome Organization.

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 apps.

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.

Thank you!

Start the survey here

February 27, 2017 - Celebrating World Book Day

Maya in costume for World Book Day

On the 2nd of March World Book Day is celebrating its 20th year.

It's a wonderful way to recognize 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 favorite 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 practice being creative!

Rainbow Pancakes

We've made a Special Story about making these Rainbow Pancakes.

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 colors 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 favorite colors.

Download as Special Story

Download as PDF

We'd love to see how you get on next week! Special Stories and Touch-Colors are both available from the App Store and Google Play now.

February 14, 2017 - FDM everywoman in Technology Awards Ceremony

Last Thursday night, Bev attended the 2017 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards ceremony in London.

Bev at the 2017 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards

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!

All photos and information about the even can be found over on the everywoman Facebook page

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 to enlarge

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.

For details see our User Guides

Other goodies included for free in today's updates:

  • New Ukrainian audio and text for Special Words (thanks Tania and Maryna)
  • "No sound" button in Special Stories page editor on Android (already on iOS)
  • Jump to any page in Special Stories by tapping page number (new on Android)
  • You can now choose the standard system fonts in Special Words on Android

January 30, 2017 - National Storytelling Week

Using Special Stories

Seeing as this week is National Storytelling Week in the UK, we're eager to find out about your best Special Stories!

Whether it's an old favorite, a special occasion or one you've made especially for this week, send your screenshots and exports over to hello@specialiapps.org.

At the end of the week, we'll choose one Special Story to feature on our blog – as a thank-you for all of your support, downloads and participation.

Send us your Special Story

January 25, 2017 - Chinese New Year

2017 - Year of the Rooster

Happy Chinese New Year!

The Chinese New Year begins this year on January 28th, and is the year of the Fire Rooster. This marks the end of 2016's Year of the Monkey, and next year 2018 will be the Year of the Dog.

Find out which year of the Chinese Zodiac you were born in, and download our free add-ons for Special Stories and Special Words!

Download Now

January 16, 2017 - Updates for Special Stories

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.

Screenshot of Special Stories in Romanian Screenshot of Special Stories in Ukrainian

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 this.

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.

More about Special Stories

January 10, 2017 - everywoman Awards 2017

We're delighted to announce that Bev has been nominated in the FDM 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 recognized for her active commitment to forefronting the progress of women working within the industry.

Bev Dean with son William

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 mothers.

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.

Good luck everyone!

Full press release on Bdaily

December 29, 2016 - New Year Add-Ons

New Year fireworks

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 2017?

Whatever everyone gets up to, we wish you all the best.

Download for Special StoriesAdd-on for Special Stories

Download for Special WordsAdd-on for Special Words

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.

Baking Christmas Cookies

To help you do just that, our volunteer Jana sent us some brilliant content about baking Christmas Cookies, created using our Special Stories app.

It's really easy to replicate at home, or you can even use this idea to add to your own traditions.

Download as Special StoryJana's recipe (Special Stories)

Download as PDFJana's recipe (PDF)

Don't forget about our free festive download for Special Stories to add even more festive cheer!

December 13, 2016 - Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from Special iApps

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 colorful 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 yourselves!

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.

Screenshot of Special Words in 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 are currently working to add Romanian to our Special Stories app.

Download for iPad or iPhone

Download for Android devices

November 17, 2016 - Survey and Thunderclap

What a month November is building up to be!

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 link:

Sign up to take part

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 hello@specialiapps.org and we'll set you up with further information.

Finally, Karen Leigh Anderson from UnLtd Big Venture Challenge and the Cambridge 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 units.

Start the survey

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 annual North East Social Enterprise Festival.

Lauren at the North East Social Enterprise Festival William at the North East Social Enterprise Festival

Lauren is in charge of our stand, and assisted by William (aged 11).

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

Andrew presenting our Special Words app

After making it to the final of Apps para todos in Barcelona last week with Special Stories, we found ourselves this week at Appcircus Hamburg with Special Words!

Our presentation

We sent Andrew, one of our work placement students, to Germany to present the app. The jury were very impressed, and awarded us second place.

Watch our video

October 6, 2016 - Special iApps Celebration 2016

Click for details

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.

Wondering what an Impactathon is?

Curious about what's in the Teacher Manual?

See event details and reserve your free place

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