Our Blog

December 18, 2015 - Christmas and Holiday Images

Decorated Tree Snowman

Download 24 free seasonal images!

These are available in 2 formats: as a word list (profile) for Special Words, and as a story for Special Stories. They can be used in any language, as they include images, but NOT written or spoken words.

You can have lots of fun adding the words with your children, and you may like to incorporate some of your own photos!

How to download for:

Special Words (iPad and iPhone)

Special Stories and Android

We would like to wish everybody a lovely Christmas, Holiday, and anything else you may be celebrating at this time of year! Thank you for your support during 2015 - we hope you have a happy, peaceful and prosperous 2016.

From the team at Special iApps

December 12, 2015 - Unsere neue deutsche Webseite

Besuchen Sie unsere neue deutsche Webseite!

Wir danken Jana Cramer für die deutsche Übersetzung der Texte. Die Webseite jetzt in Deutsch, Englisch, Französisch, Niederländisch, Norwegisch und Spanisch verfügbar ist.

Diese Apps stehen in Deutsch zur Verfügung:

Besondere Wörter
Besondere Geschichten
Wörter zum Berühren
Tiere zum Berühren

Besondere Wörter, Besondere Geschichten, Wörter zum Berühren und Tiere zum Berühren

Wir arbeiten zurzeit an deutschen Version dieser Apps:

Besondere Zahlen
Zuordnen & Finden

Besondere Zahlen und Zuordnen & Finden

Zahlen zum Berühren
Farben zum Berühren
Formen zum Berühren
Gefühle zum Berühren

Zahlen zum Berühren, Farben zum Berühren, Formen zum Berühren und Gefühle zum Berühren

Wenn Sie über die Updates informiert werden möchten, abonnieren Sie unsere Mailingliste.

December 8, 2015 - Updates & Price Drop

Special Numbers
Match & Find
My 1st Signs
Touch Apps

In the last few days we have released updates for Special Numbers, Match & Find and My 1st Signs on iOS, and our Touch Apps on both iOS and Android.

Screenshot of My 1st Signs


  • All of our apps are now fully compatible with the iPad Pro
  • All apps with profiles allow you to share via AirDrop, DropBox, Google Drive and Microsoft One Drive
  • We are offering My 1st Signs (for users of UK sign languages) at 50% off (now £9.99 in UK)


  • All apps are now compatible with Android 6.0

December 2, 2015 - New Team Members

We are very pleased to announce that Jana Cramer and Katha Maksymowicz have joined our team at Special iApps.

Jana Cramer Katha Maksymowicz

Jana (lefttop) and Katha (rightbelow) are currently studying for postgraduate degrees at Newcastle University Business School. They will be with us until March, as part of the University's work placement scheme, as Export Marketing Assistants.

As well as helping us with marketing our apps, they will be using their language skills to improve and extend our German translations and to introduce Polish.

Please join us in welcoming them!

November 18, 2015 - iPad Pro

Apple released the new large-screen iPad Pro last week. We've been testing one since Friday, and are very impressed. Here are true-scale screenshots of our Special Stories app on iPad mini 4, iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro:

Special Stories on iPad mini, iPad Air and iPad Pro

The iPad Pro screen is huge - nearly as large as US Letter or ISO A4. Although the current price may make it unaffordable for many, we believe it could have an important role in Education, for several reasons, including:

  • Easier to read text, recognize images and view videos if you are visually-impaired
  • Easier to touch in the right place if you have poor hand-eye co-ordination
  • Better if you have hearing impairment - it has 4 speakers instead of 2, and is much louder
  • Ideal size for sharing, when working with several children at the same time

It's worth knowing that the iPad Pro has two display modes, standard and zoomed, as the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus also have. You can switch between these in the Settings app's Display & Brightness.


Everything on the screen is scaled up by 33% compared with an iPad Air. So you see exactly the same arrangement of text and images, only bigger. Apps that have not been updated to support the iPad pro are always displayed in zoomed mode, regardless of the display setting.


In apps that specifically support the iPad Pro, items such as buttons and text can have the same size as on an iPad Air, but more things can be fitted on the screen. So for instance, you can see more of a web page in Safari without needing to scroll.

Standard mode is the default (for apps that support it) and, to our eyes, text and images look sharper than in zoomed mode.

Yesterday we released updates to Special Stories and Special Words to fully support both modes. In standard mode, we've made the cards in Special Words and the photos and text in Special Stories bigger, to use all the available space (as in the screenshot above). But we've kept sizes in the Word List and the view of all Stories in a Collection the same scale as on the iPad Air, so you can see more of them at once. If you'd prefer everything scaled up, just switch to zoomed mode.

At the same time we have fixed a significant bug in Special Words, that meant that press-and-hold on the padlock button didn't work in some cases on iOS 8 and later.

We will be updating all our other apps very soon!

November 6, 2015 - Events and Workshops

  • We will be at the Disability Information Day on November 10th organized by Stockton United For Change. We will also be attending the Middlesbrough Information Day on November 23rd.
  • For a limited time, you can save 20% if you arrange a workshop for 2016. This offer ends December 11th, so hurry!

Contact us now

October 29, 2015 - Halloween

Witch on Broomstick

It's nearly Halloween!

We have 8 new spooky drawings with a Halloween theme. 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 yourselves in Halloween costumes? It's really quick and easy to do!

Find out more

October 23, 2015 - Down Syndrome Awareness Month

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, so it seems fitting that here at Special iApps, a social enterprise founded and run by parents of children who have Down syndrome to create educational apps for disabled children around the world, we've been recognized in 3 award ceremonies. This month we've won two regional awards and have been finalists in an international award.

Bev with the Dynamites 15 award

Special iApps was recognized in the North East, winning Outstanding Social Enterprise in the North East Charity Awards on 8th October. We then traveled to London, as we were shortlisted finalists for Innovation in Education in the international Meffys Awards on 19th. Back in Newcastle on 22nd, were announced winner for Outstanding Achievement in the Dynamites 15 IT and Technology Awards.

Based in Durham, it was with tremendous pride we drove home over the iconic Tyne Bridge last night with our regional award. Special iApps is a team of three, and we wouldn't be doing what we do if our children William and Maya didn't have Down syndrome.

We've read that Down syndrome is the most common cause of leaning difficulties, and know that many people with Down syndrome have hearing impairment, speech difficulties and some have a dual diagnosis of autism. So designing apps for children with Down syndrome creates accessible educational apps to support the learning of children with a wide range of disabilities and abilities.

As parents we knew that William and Maya had Down syndrome before they were born, and we celebrate their lives and the positive effects they have had on our lives, as well as the lives of others with Down syndrome and their families around the world.

Bev, Colin and Barbara

October 22, 2015 - Updates for Special Stories and Special Words on iOS

We are pleased to announce updated versions of Special Stories and Special Words for iPhone and iPad. These are available for download on the App Store, and are free for users of earlier versions.

  • Copy stories and profiles using AirDrop
  • Share and backup using Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive
  • Stories improved compatibility with iBooks (iOS and OS X)
  • Optimized for iOS 9.0 and 9.1, ready for iPad Pro
  • Still full support for iOS 6.1 to 8.4 and older devices
  • Smoother scrolling in large collections of stories

The updated sharing facilities are explained in detail in the Special Stories User Guide and the Special Words User Guide.

As always, if you have any questions, please let us know.

October 18, 2015 - Price Changes in Australia, Indonesia & Sweden

This week, Apple has increased the prices of all apps on the App Stores in Australia, Indonesia and Sweden. This is to account for changes in exchange rates.

Apple doesn't offer developers the possibility of setting prices individually for each country. So, unfortunately, our apps now cost a little more in these three countries.

We hope you think our apps are still good value. Updates continue to be free, and we will be adding more facilities you have requested in the coming weeks and months.

October 10, 2015 - North East Charity Awards Winner

Bev and Colin receiving the award

We are thrilled to have won the Outstanding Social Enterprise award at the inaugural North East Charity Awards, held in Newcastle upon Tyne!

These awards celebrate the achievements of charities, individuals, social enterprises and voluntary groups in the North East of England, and we felt humbled to meet so many inspiring people.

Thanks to the Marriott Hotel at Gosforth Park, the Journal and the Gazette for arranging the event and Alfie Joey and Anna Foster from BBC Newcastle for hosting.

We would particularly like to thank all the sponsors, particularly Leathers LLP and Brewin Dolphin, who made it possible to create these awards.

September 28, 2015 - At BBC Newcastle

William with Anna Foster at BBC Newcastle

William took a little time out of school today, as he'd been invited to record an interview with Anna Foster, host of the mid-morning radio show on BBC Newcastle.

William showed Anna how to play Special Words, and created a Special Story about the visit. Mum and Dad also got to chat with Anna about having a child with Down syndrome and starting Special iApps.

Update: The interview was aired during Anna's show (10:00 to noon) on Friday, 2nd October.

September 18, 2015 - Meffys & North East Charity Awards

We have some exciting news! In the last couple of days we have been selected as finalists for two awards:

  • Meffys 2015

    The Meffys are prestigious international awards, organized annually since 2004 by the Mobile Ecosystem Forum. Past Meffys winners have included Apple, the BBC and the Wikimedia Foundation.

    This year's finals are in London on October 19th. We are one of 5 shortlisted for the Innovation in Education category.

    Finalist profiles

  • North East Charity Awards 2015

    Closer to home, we have also reached the finals of this year's North East Charity Awards, where we have been selected along with two other organizations for the Outstanding Social Enterprise award.

    The results will be announced at the award ceremony in Newcastle on October 8th.

    Shortlisted finalists

Recognitions like these help us spread knowledge about what we do, so we can reach more children with disabilities. Wish us luck!

September 15, 2015 - iOS 9


Tomorrow, September 16, Apple will release iOS 9 for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

Please read these notes BEFORE updating any of your devices.

Special Stories Special Words

Known Issue

Sharing stories or collections in Special Stories, or profiles in Special Words, doesn't currently work using Bluetooth, if either device is running iOS 9.

We believe this is a problem in iOS, not in the apps. Other methods of sharing (email and Wi-Fi) still work fine.

If you regularly exchange stories in locations where you don't have access to Wi-Fi (e.g. in the school yard), you may want to delay updating your device to iOS 9.

We hope very soon to release updates to these apps to support sharing with AirDrop, Dropbox, Google Drive and iCloud Drive. AirDrop allows sharing between two nearby devices without needing access to a Wi-Fi network.


Using iCloud (or not)

If you upgrade to iOS 9, the first time your device restarts it will ask you to login with an iCloud account or to create one.

You can avoid using iCloud if you've not used it before (e.g. if your organization's policy prohibits it, or you have concerns about data usage or privacy).

To do this, tap Don't have an Apple ID or forgot it? when asked to login or create an account, and then tap Set Up Later In Settings. Confirm by tapping Don't Use.

If you are already using iCloud, and are happy with it, there's no reason to stop. However, be aware that iCloud sync does not backup your content from our apps: we currently recommend backing up Apple devices using iTunes on a PC or Mac, whether using iCloud or not.

September 1, 2015 - Special iApps turns 4!

September 1st marks our anniversary. It's now 4 years since we released our first app, Special Words, on the Apple App Store back in 2011.

Thank you to everybody for giving us so much support over the last 4 years. We couldn't do what we do without your help.

We hope everyone in the Northern Hemisphere had a great summer break, recharged your batteries and are looking forward to going back to school!

Our annual celebration party at the Alan Shearer Centre in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, will be on September 5th from 12 noon to 4 p.m. Please join us if you can, and let us know if you are coming.

Bev, Colin and Barbara

August 22, 2015 - Free Workshops in Durham (UK)

Our popular workshops are coming to Durham Town Hall on September 17th and 18th.

Making Changes Together (MCT) and Durham SEND Information Advice and Support Service have organized two days of free workshops for parents and carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities. They are taking place at Durham Town Hall on 17th and 18th September. Lunch is included.

at a Special iApps workshop

Special iApps will be hosting a workshop on both days, each covering:

  • Our apps and how to get the most out of them
  • Setting up iPads for children with special needs
  • Connecting to speakers, whiteboards, switches, etc.
  • Backups, recovery and sharing content

Please note YOU MUST BOOK YOUR WORKSHOPS in advance.

If you have any general questions about these events, please use the email address on the booking forms.

August 12, 2015 - Fixes for recording sound on Android

A few people have reported problems recording sound in our Special Stories and Special Words apps on Android. Yesterday we released updates to both apps on Google Play, that fix the issues on at least some devices.

As there are so many different Android tablets and phones, it's impossible for us to test them all. We think it would be helpful if we published and maintained a list of devices that do and don't work.

If you have either of these apps on Android, it would be really helpful if you could update to the latest version, and tell us whether they're working properly or not. If you have problems with issues other than sound, please report these too, so we can fix them. If everything is fine, we'd like to know that too.

Please also tell us the make and model of your device(s) and their Android version(s). These can usually be found in the Settings app > About phone or About tablet. Look for Model Number or Model, and Android Version.

Thank you!

You can transfer your content between Apple and Android versions of Special Stories and Special Words. For example, copy a story with audio from Apple iPhone to Samsung tablet. For help, see Support > User Guides, or get in touch.

August 4, 2015 - Touch-Numbers in Dutch

We have added Dutch to the languages in our Touch-Numbers app for Apple and Android devices. Many thanks to Annette Dalhuisen for lending us her voice.

Find out more

We hope to add Dutch to Special Numbers soon. To know when this and other updates are available, subscribe to our mailing list or our new news feed.

How to get our news feed

July 14, 2015 - Houses of Parliament

Joseph, William and Colin outside Parliament

We traveled to London on Tuesday to join several dozen families in the Houses of Parliament. At the reception, organized by Contact a Family, we were able to share with MPs and Peers our experiences of caring for a disabled child.

We were lucky to be able to talk with the Bishop of Durham and Baroness Sherlock, both members of the House of Lords, and Kevan Jones, MP for Durham North. The Bishop, Paul Butler, is Children's Advocate on behalf of the bishops, and Baroness Maeve Sherlock's focus includes communities, families and children.

July 9, 2015 - Updates for Android

We have released updated versions of Special Stories and Special Words for Android. These have new icons, and corrected translations, as in the updates we recently released for iOS.

The screenshots here were taken on a Samsung Galaxy SIII. Our Colors and Shapes free add-on in Special Words, and a page from one of William's stories in Special Stories.

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