Our Blog

September 28, 2016 - App Circus Competition - Barcelona

We have entered our Special Stories and Special Words apps into an online competition. 10 apps will be shortlisted after voting closes on October 4, to attend the final in Sant Cugat, near Barcelona in Spain, on October 19.

Please help us to get to the final by voting. You can only vote for one app and only through your Twitter account.

You can see all of the apps in the competition at:


and select one to vote for. Alternatively, click on either of the links below:

To Vote for Special Stories

I vote for #SpecialStories on the #appsparatodos #SCH16 competition. RT to vote and help us win!

To Vote for Special Words

I vote for #SpecialWords on the #appsparatodos #SCH16 competition. RT to vote and help us win!

Please retweet and follow us @specialiapps. Why not add a photo of you using the app, and let us know which one is your favorite!

September 24, 2016 - Upcoming Events in the UK

Again this year, we will be at the National Portage Association's annual conference, on September 30th and October 1st in Northampton. We'll be hosting 2 different seminars on the Friday, and repeating both on the Saturday:

Demystifying Tablets

If you are new to using iPads and other tablets, or not sure what it's all about, come along! We'll demonstrate iPads and Android tablets, apps and other devices you can use with them, and explain sharing, privacy, backups and much more.

Bring your iPad and Learn more about Using it as a Communication Tool

We will be demonstrating our apps, and covering how parents and professionals are using them to support children, helping them to communicate and building strong foundations for the future. Android tablets also welcome.

Visit the Portage website

On Sunday October 16th, we will be exhibiting at the Cumbria Down's Syndrome Conference, in Rheged, near Penrith, where speakers will include Professor Sue Buckley, OBE and Dr Wendy Uttley. Come and visit us on our stand, where you'll be able to try out our apps.

Details and booking information

September 13, 2016 - iOS 10 - Please Read


Today Apple released iOS 10, the latest version of its operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Changes made under the hood have affected apps from many developers, and we strongly recommend you download all available app updates if you are intending to run iOS 10.

Special Words
Special Stories
Special Numbers

To coincide, we've released updates for Special Words, Special Stories and Special Numbers. We've optimized these for iOS 10, but still fully support iOS 6, 7, 8 and 9. We recognize that some older devices can't run iOS 10 (e.g. the iPad 2).

A feature of our apps is the ability to share content (lists of words, or stories and collections), and we include an option Use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, this stopped working reliably in iOS 9, and didn't work at all in iOS 10. So we have completely rewritten this code, and now sharing works well and much faster in all iOS versions. The only downside is that for iOS 6 only, this now requires Wi-Fi, and doesn't work with Bluetooth. Note that you must update our apps on both the sending and receiving devices, or they will be unable to connect.


A number of you have been confused about where to find the settings for our apps. Historically, some developers installed theirs into Apple's Settings app (the one with the cog-wheels icon, left), while others incorporated them inside each of their own apps.

We used to provide our settings in both of these locations, but unfortunately some configuration options you asked us to offer could only be made to work in our app itself. So going forward, we've decided to only support adjusting the setting for our 3 "Special" apps from inside them. We'll be updating other apps soon to match.

When you have updated to iOS 10, you will notice that instead of sliding your finger across the screen to unlock it, you must instead tap the Home button. We found this a little confusing on recent devices that support Touch ID: by default you now need to touch the Home button to identify yourself, but then remove your finger and tap the button to unlock.

If you'd like to go back to just touching with your finger to unlock, open Apple's Settings app, and in General > Accessibility > Home Button, turn on the new option Rest Finger to Open.

September 7, 2016 - Starting School

Barbara and Maya

So, with Maya (literally) marching off into the next chapter of her life - starting at the local mainstream primary school (elementary school), a new environment opens up to her with lots of new words to learn.

Maya ready for school

To help her and all of your new starters, we have created free add-ons for Special Words and Special Stories that depict the school surroundings, to familiarize and stimulate conversations. We also hope that these images will be useful to you as your child moves up through the school years, starts a new school, or just to help to readjust to school life after the long summer break. We hope you enjoy using them, adding your own words, photos and voiceovers to assist your child.

Download now

Barbara is our Head of Design and Photography. Today was her daughter Maya's first day at school.

September 1, 2016 - Special iApps turns 5

Special iApps is 5 years old today!

We have come a long way since first launching Special Words in English 2011, just a few months after the arrival of Apple's iPad 2. Now all 11 of our apps are available in Catalan, French, German, Norwegian, Polish and Spanish, and Special Words itself supports 23 languages.

Bev exhibiting our apps in Oslo

In the last 12 months, we have been able to offer work experience and college-based project work for 8 students at Newcastle and Northumbria universities, have been at over a dozen events in the UK, and exhibited at our first overseas conference in Norway.

A big thank-you to everyone who has traveled on this journey with us, including the organizations and individuals who have helped with funding, testing and translation. Most of all, thank-you to all you parents, carers, teachers and others who have downloaded our apps, and given us such great feedback, and especially to all the children around the world who are enjoying learning with our apps.

We have exciting plans for the coming year, so watch this space!

August 11, 2016 - Booking for DNEX 2016 Seminars

The 2016 Disability North Exhibition is being held on September 21-22, at Newcastle Racecourse. We will be exhibiting on both days, so come and see our apps in action on stand C16.

The exhibition also includes a number of FREE seminars. We will be hosting one at 16:00 on the first day, Apps for Children with Special Educational Needs. If you wish to attend any of the seminars, please book a place.

Seminar Index and Booking Form (no longer available).

August 4, 2016 - New Team Members

We are delighted to welcome Lauren-Rae Dodd and Andrew Robinson to the team at Special iApps. Both are recent graduates of Northumbria University.

Lauren-Rae Dodd Andrew Robinson

Lauren (lefttop) has been studying Journalism, and is joining us for 3 months.

Andrew (rightbelow) has been studying Business with Marketing Management and will be with us during August.

They will be gaining work experience with us as Sales & Marketing Assistants.

Meet the Team

July 1, 2016 - Anniversary of The Somme and Brexit

One hundred years ago today, the Battle of the Somme commenced in Northern France, resulting in the death of more than one million men from Britain, Germany, France and beyond. In October 2012, Bev, Joseph, William and myself visited the Thiepval Monument, and found inscribed there the name of Thomas William Hutchinson, Bev's great grandfather, who lost his life on the first day of the battle. Joseph placed a small wooden cross and poppy in his memory. Thomas left a 34 year old wife, and 5 young children.

Thomas Hutchinson, 1878-1916

A century later, following the UK's vote by a narrow margin to leave the EU, we are appalled to see the two main political parties in Westminster descend into political in-fighting and back-stabbing, and to survey the economic damage that the vote has already inflicted across Europe and globally. I myself have traveled widely in the EU, for work and for pleasure, from Ireland to Croatia and from Sweden to Greece. I have also visited the US and Canada on many occasions. I have felt welcome everywhere, and have always been proud to consider myself European as well as English.

At Special iApps, it has always been our mission to help children with learning difficulties wherever they were born and whichever country they live in. This includes those in the UK who have English as an additional language, and expats living around the world.

Our work is only possible because over 50 wonderful people from around the globe who have given their time and effort to help us translate our apps into two dozen languages. In 2014-2015, more than two thirds of our downloads were from outside the UK, and one third of our revenue from countries in Europe other than the UK. We are delighted that currently we have two postgraduate students on work placement with us here in North East England, one born in Germany and the other in Poland.

As a UK-based nonprofit, with customers in over 100 countries, there will undoubtedly be challenges and uncertainties for Special iApps as a result of the vote. Not least because App Store prices are tied to fluctuating exchange rates against the US Dollar, and because we may end up having to manage tax-reporting separately for over 30 countries in Europe.

Hopefully some sort of leadership and plan will emerge soon in London. We remain totally committed to all of our partners, customers, and most of all children, everywhere in the world.

Colin Dean, co-founder.

June 29, 2016 - Special Words 3 for Android

Special Words 3 on Android

We are pleased to announce the immediate availability of Special Words 3 for Android.

Just like version 3 for iOS, the Android version now includes:

  • Choice of 1, 2, 3 or 4 cards per page
  • Two new sound-matching activities
  • New images, with words in 23 languages

Find out more

June 11, 2016 - Touch Apps in German and Polish

Screenshot of Touch-Words in German Screenshot of Touch-Emotions in Polish

With Katha and Jana's help, we have completed the translation of all our apps into Polish and German, releasing updated versions of our Touch Apps.

These are downloadable now on the Apple App Store for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, and on Google Play for Android devices.

Thanks also to Polska Szkoła Sobotnia (Polish Saturday School) in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, for the opportunity to demonstrate our apps to them today, and to Michal Chantkowski of ICOS for arranging this.

June 10, 2016 - Match & Find in German and Polish

Screenshot of Match & Find

Our Match & Find app for the Apple iPad is now available with two additional languages:

The app contains 6 activities to help develop young children’s memory, matching, searching and sequencing skills, and is also available in English (US & UK), French, Spanish, Catalan and Norwegian.

Download on the App Store

After their recent successes in the Student Employee of the Year Awards, we are very pleased that Jana and Katha will be continuing to work with us during the Summer.

May 27, 2016 - Special Numbers in Polish

Specjalne Liczby (Special Numbers in Polish)

Following the recent addition of Dutch and German to Special Numbers, Katha has now translated the app into Polish, as Specjalne Liczby.

Special Numbers is available for the Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

Download now

May 21, 2016 - Student Employee of the Year Awards

Katha, Bev and Jana with their awards

Special iApps recently participated in the Student Employee of the Year Awards, presented by the National Association of Student Employment Services (NASES). The award recognizes achievements of students who effectively combine part time work with their study commitment as well as student employers who offer students the opportunity to gain experiences outside the university.

Jana and Katha entered the contest – and were successful. Katha was highly recommended in the Commercial Impact category, and Jana was awarded the winner of Newcastle University in the Above and Beyond Awards. She will now continue to the regional level. Congratulations to both of you!

Special iApps was declared a highly recommended employer, which our student employees confirm, and which makes us very happy and proud.

May 4, 2016 - Special Numbers in Dutch and German

We have updated our Special Numbers app to add support for Dutch (Speciale Getallen) and German (Besondere Zahlen).

Many thanks to Annette Dalhuisen and Maria Andela for the Dutch translation, and Jana Cramer for the German.

This app now offers a range of activities to help develop early number skills in 10 languages.

Besondere Zahlen (Special Numbers in German) Speciale Getallen (Special Numbers in Dutch)

Read more

April 22, 2016 - Special Stories (Specjalne Opowieśći) now in Polish

Specjalne Opowieśći (Special Stories) Specjalne Opowieśći (Special Stories)

We are delighted to announce that our Special Stories app now joins Special Words in supporting the Polish language. We will be adding support to our other apps in the next few weeks.

Especial thanks to Jarosław Pieniak, who helped us start the Polish translations, and to Katha Maksymowicz who has been working with us to complete them.

Read more (in Polish)

April 20, 2016 - Videos from Down syndrome Conference in Oslo

Colin Dean on stage at Landskonferansen om Down syndrom 2016 in Oslo

Colin and Bev were presenting and exhibiting at Landskonferansen om Down syndrom 2016 in Oslo on April 6-8. Thank you to everybody who visited our stand, it was amazing to learn how many children in Norway are already using our apps!

Colin shared the stage with Professor Sue Buckley, OBE, on the Friday. We've put together some short video extracts of Colin and Sue talking about our apps (in English).

Watch the videos now

April 6, 2016 - Special Words 3 - All-New Version!

Special Words 3 on iPad

We are excited to announce the availability of a major new version of Special Words for Apple devices. Version 3 is a free update to version 2, and has:

  • An all-new set of pictures (same set of written words)
  • Two extra activities: Sound to Picture and Sound to Word
  • A new setting to select 1, 2, 3 or 4 cards per page
  • Dual-control using any Bluetooth or USB keyboard
  • A Polish translation (coming soon to our other apps)
  • Male and female voices for German and Norwegian

All your existing profiles will be preserved on updating, but where they use the app's built-in pictures, they will now appear with the new ones.

We have a new video in which Colin and William demonstrate the app's unique dual-control facility, and show you some of the new pictures.

Watch the video on our home page

For Android users, we have released version 2.0.0 of Special Words, which has the same new pictures, translations and voices. We hope to bring the extra activities and cards-per-page setting to Android very soon.

Touch-Words has also been updated on both iOS and Android: its 28 words now have pictures to match those in Special Words.

Many thanks to those of you whose suggestions we have incorporated into the new versions, and to everybody who has worked so hard to help us with this project.

March 14, 2016 - FREE Easter Resources for Special Words and Special Stories

Easter Eggs

As Easter approaches you can Download and use our FREE Easter add-on. Add your own words and audio.

Having an Easter Egg hunt? Take photos of the Easter Trail and create a Special Story to help find what the Easter bunny has hidden.

Happy Easter!

Download Now

March 9, 2016 - Celebrating World Down Syndrome Day - Using Special iApps to Teach Prepositions

In celebration of World Down Syndrome Day, Special iApps have designed some fun illustrations to help teach prepositions (in, on, under...). It is widely recognized that a child with any language delay usually struggles with these.

Where is the Sock?

This can be due to cognition, inability to grasp the concept, and difficulties in figuring out the nuances of the language. Sometimes they know the concepts but are unable to retrieve or express them. Whatever the reason, fun activities, repetitive and positive responses are key to successful learning.

Where is the sock? is a fun and colorful add on to use with Special Words and Special Stories. You can add your own voice and written words.

In Special Words, this can then be used in any of the activities, depending on the child's ability. In Special Stories, you can use the story to reinforce language acquisition, and perhaps add your own pages.

We hope you have fun using the images and celebrating World Down syndrome Day with us on March 21st 2016!

Download Now:

Lots of Socks

Where is the Sock?

March 5, 2016 - Toilet Training

Maya using Special Words to learn toileting vocabulary

Barbara tells us about how she prepared for toilet training with her daughter Maya, who is 4 and has Down syndrome.

The resources Barbara created for Special Words and Special Stories are free to download, so you can use them with your child too.


March 1, 2016 - Using Special iApps to prepare for Maya's Birthday

Maya 4th Birthday using Special Words

As Maya approached her 4th Birthday, she needed some help with vocabulary and familiarity of her upcoming birthday party. Barbara created a Birthday add-on for Special Words and Special Stories and you can read how she used them with Maya and download the free resources to use with your children.


February 27, 2016 - Bev announced Woman of the Year at North East Glass Slipper Awards

Bev is the Woman Of the Year, 2016 Glass Slipper Awards

Special iApps founder, Beverley Dean, was awarded North East Glass Slipper Woman of the Year 2016 by The Chronicle Sunshine Fund. This charity supplies specialist equipment to Children with disabilities or a life-limiting illness in the North East.

The award event at the Gateshead-Newcastle Hilton Hotel raised an amazing $13,992.50. All of the money supports children in the North East of England.

If you would like to apply for an award or support the charity visit the Sunshine Fund website.

February 26, 2016 - Have you 10 minutes to spare?

We currently have the help of a group of final year students at Northumbria University Business School. They are conducting a study to learn more about the usability of our website.

If you have 10 minutes to spare, please complete their survey. You will be helping the students to complete their course, and us to improve our website.

Start survey now

Thank you!

February 18, 2016 - Our new Catalan Website

There are over 4 million native speakers of the Catalan language (Català) in Spain and Andorra, and many children learn to speak, read and write in Catalan, before Spanish or any other language. Unfortunately, there are very few apps in Catalan suitable for children with learning disabilities.

For some while, we have supported Catalan in 10 of our apps, and we are now pleased to launch a Catalan version of our website.

Històries Especials (Special Stories) Paraules Especials (Special Words)

If you set your iPad, iPhone or Android device's language to Català, then our apps and website will automatically select this.

LeftUpper: settings in Paraules Especials (Special Words)

RightLower: creating a page in Històries Especials (Special Stories)

None of this would be possible without the hard work of two of our volunteers from Catalonia. Pilar Clavera translated Special Words, and provided the audio for this and Touch-Words. Marta Montserrat is the translator and voice of all our other apps, and has now translated our website with great dedication.

Very many thanks to Pilar and Marta.

Visit our Catalan website

February 14, 2016 - Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day from Special iApps!

Happy Valentine's Day from Special iApps!

We have 8 Valentine themed drawings to build upon vocabulary. These are available as FREE downloadable add-ons for our Special Words and Special Stories apps.

They don't include written or spoken words: the idea is to have fun adding your own words and voices. How about also including photos of your valentine cards and flowers? How many things can you find that are heart shaped or red?

Find out more

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