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
April 18, 2018 - nasen Live! 2018
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
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 iPads and other Tablets to Teach and Assess
the Progress of Children with Down Syndrome and Other Learning
Workshop on Thursday 26th July at 11:30am
Dr. Colin Dean, CTO, Special iApps Julie Brown, Advisory Inclusion Teacher for County Durham
Today we've released an updated version of Special Stories for
iPad and iPhone, with 2 main changes.
Support for Inverted Colors (Dark Mode)
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
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
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
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.
February 26, 2018 - Special Words and Special Words Pro - Updates
Updated versions of our Special Words and Special Words Pro apps for
iPad and iPhone can now be downloaded from the App Store.
This fixes a problem in both apps, where if you interrupted an
activity while a card was rotating, you could end up with the text on
the card mirrored left-right.
In Special Words Pro, we've also solved a problem that affected iOS 7
users only, preventing registration and download of our free add-on
Special Words on Android tablets and phones is not affected by these
February 21, 2018 - IMET Exhibition - Innovate, Motivate, Educate through Technology
This year's IMET Exhibition brings more than 20 educational
technology companies to Cumbria, offering school tech services, display
solutions, assessment tools, online teaching resources and more.
Hosted by Cumbria Apple Regional Training Centre, this is the ideal
opportunity for teachers who were unable to travel to London for last
month's Bett Show.
This year the event is being held in two locations, Barrow in Furness
on Tuesday March 13th, and Penrith on Wednesday 14th. Bett Awards 2018
finalists Special iApps will be exhibiting on both days, so come and try
our range of educational apps for early years and special needs.
The event is free, and schools from outside Cumbria are equally
welcome. If you'd like to attend, please register on Eventbrite:
January 30, 2018 - Special Words Pro & Teacher's Manual Now Available
Thank you to everybody who came to our stand at the Bett Show in
London last week! We had visitors from as far away as Brazil, Iceland
Special Words Pro
We launched the professional edition of our Special Words app at
Bett. It offers printing, free access to our new library of
curriculum resources, and more. It's now available in English on
the App Store for the iPad and iPhone, with other languages to
To accompany the app, we have also published a paperback
Teacher's Manual. Designed for teachers following EYFS and National
Curriculum in the UK, it's also applicable to early years education
in other countries.
It includes detailed guidance on how to use Special Words
and Special Words Pro, as well as suggestions for complementary
Available from Amazon in the UK ($ 9.99), North America
(US $9.99) and Europe (9.99 €). VAT is added in some
Join us at the Bett Show in London, January 24-27, 2018. We will be
launching the new Pro edition of our award-winning Special Words app,
and accompanying Teacher's Manual.
We'll be there every day on stand C40d next to the Department of
International Trade (DIT) Lounge. To ensure you get to talk to us about
your needs, and are able to try our apps, book a meeting by contacting
us and telling us which day(s) you'll be there.
We'd like to thank DIT for supporting us in exhibiting. Barbara's
daughter Maya features on DIT's show posters, using out Touch-Numbers
Our Special Words and Special Stories apps are
shortlisted finalists in this year's Bett Awards. The winners will be
announced on the evening of January 24, so fingers crossed!
December 19, 2017 - Happy Christmas after a busy year!
2017 has been a busy year at Special iApps, with lots going on behind
the scenes, laying the foundations for some exciting new products coming
out throughout 2018.
We're grateful for all the support provided by different people and
We've had a lot of support from many sources, both in-kind and
through the programs that we've joined, and we'd like to say a big
thank-you to everyone who has been involved. We started 2017 part way
through the 2016 Big Venture Challenge, and now end 2017 having started
The Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Trade Up program, in partnership
with the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) and jointly funded by the
Big Lottery Fund.
We continue to work hard to make our apps available all around the
It's been wonderful to be recognized for our work this year and we're
thrilled to have been shortlisted finalists in the 2017 Tech4Good Awards
and 2017 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards. We continue to support
children with special educational needs globally, and it's been good to
see Special Words reach over 25 languages with the addition of Afrikaans
and Russian. Colin also had a fantastic trip to Kyiv, the capital of
Ukraine in April as guest of the Ukrainian Charitable Down Syndrome
Organization. Then later in the year we were selected as runner up in
the 7th Open to Export competition.
We will innovate again and again in 2018 to give you the best of our
The icing on the cake was when both Special Words and Special Stories
were announced shortlisted finalists in the 2018 Bett Awards. We're
looking forward to exhibiting at the
Bett Show from 24-27 January
2018. We will be on stand C40d near the Department of International
Trade Lounge, with the launch of Special Words Pro and our new
curriculum resources - the first in a new series of apps we've planned
Last but not least...
We would like to take this opportunity to say that the best things
that have happened in 2017 have been reading and hearing your stories,
when we meet face to face or virtually. It's always wonderful to get
such positive feedback on how our products are transforming so many
All Special iApps team members wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy
Bev, Colin, Barbara and Sian
December 8, 2017 - 12 Tips Of Christmas!
Video: Get Ready for Christmas
Christmas is getting closer! This year, get ready to create
unforgettable memories as a family with our "12 Tips Of
Christmas". We've designed a fun, festive and colorful series of
Holiday tips counting all the way down to the big day.
Every day from Wednesday 13th December, we will share on Facebook and
Twitter helpful advice for how to get the most out of our Special Words
and Special Stories apps during the Christmas and Holiday period.
So this is a great time to download these apps for children with
special educational needs and try them for yourselves!
Are you feeling excited by our special 12 Tips Of Christmas? To grab
all our daily tips, it is as simple as
following @specialiapps on Facebook and Twitter:
As Christmas is definitely a time for cheering and sharing, don't
hesitate to comment our daily tips on our social media channels.
We'd also love to hear from you! Make our 12 Tips Of Christmas yours
and share your experience on social media with these hashtags:
We hope you will enjoy your Christmas vacations with Special Words and
Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way...
December 5, 2017 - More App Updates!
It's already possible for anyone who cannot control a touch screen to
operate several of our apps for iPad and iPhone using one or two
switches. With this we have witnessed children with profound physical
disabilities showing how much they know, and surprising their parents
We've now updated Special Words so it can be used with a third
switch, and Colin has a new video demonstrating in detail how to connect
and configure switches for an iPad. We'd like to thank Pretorian
Technologies for providing us with some of their switches and switch
interfaces for this.
We have also released an update on the App Store for Special Stories,
adding full support for iOS 11 and the 10.5 inch iPad Pro. We have also
fixed a bug that prevented stories being updated after disabling and
then enabling the editing option in the app's settings.
November 8, 2017 - Special Words - Update for iPad & iPhone
An updated version of Special Words for iPad and iPhone is now
available on the App Store. This is a free update if you already have
Child Safety Gate
This version introduces a safety gate (also called a parental
lock). Apple is asking developers to add these to apps for
children. You will see the gate whenever you tap the action button
in the Word List. It asks you to solve an arithmetic problem, to
prove you are a grown up! If you prefer not to have a gate, you can
turn it off in the settings.
This is a new setting, to increase the size of the text on the
word cards by 50%. We think it will be particularly helpful for
children with visual impairment, as several of you have requested
something like this.
Cards Per Page
This setting, which already offered you a choice of 1, 2, 3 or 4
cards to match on each page, now allows you to increase that to 6 or
8. Try this if you think 4 cards isn't sufficiently challenging!
Newer Hardware and Software
We've optimized this version for iOS 11 and for the 10.5 inch
iPad Pro. We still support iOS 7 to 10, but this version cannot be
installed on iOS 6 (now more than 5 years old). If you have an iPad
2 or later, running iOS 6, you can update it to iOS 9 or later.
Did you know?
There are several tools available to limit what your child can do in
Special Words, and generally on your iPad or iPhone:
Pressing and hold the Padlock at the
top of an activity for 3 seconds will prevent leaving that
Turning off Enable Editing in the
app's settings will prevent modification of word list and profiles (so
things can't be deleted).
You have to open the Child Safety
Gate before you can manage profiles, import or export word
lists, visit our website, or completely reset the app.
using Guided Access,
you can lock the iPad into any app, so you cannot leave the app by
tapping the Home button.
If you enable Restrictions in the
iPad's settings, you can prevent apps being deleted, in-app purchases
being made, and much more!
November 2, 2017 - Bett Awards - Finalist
We are delighted to announce that two of our apps have been
short-listed for the 2018 Bett Awards:
Finalist in the Special Educational Needs Solutions category
Finalist in the International Digital Education Resource category
The Bett Awards are a
celebration of inspiring creativity and innovation in technology for
These awards are an integral part of the
annual Bett Show, the world's
leading showcase of education technology solutions, held in London. The
winners of the 2018 awards will be announced on January 24.
We will be exhibiting at the Bett Show from 24 to 27 January. You
can register for free to attend, so take the opportunity if you can to
come and talk to us there about your ideas and how our apps can help you
transform the lives of children you work with.
October 6, 2017 - Special Words - Two New Editions
We are very pleased to announce 2 new editions of our Special Words app.
Special Words Web
We have had lots of requests since we first launched
Special Words for a way of trying it before buying. We understand that
you can't always be sure whether your child will want to or be able to
use an app until you've downloaded it.
Now you can do this free of charge, using the new "web app" edition
of Special Words, which we have called Special Words Web. You can try
it for up to 7 days on at most 5 devices. As it's a web app, you don't
need to download it from a store, instead it just runs from our
website. You just need to quickly register to use it.
As well as running on iPad, iPhone and Android devices, it also works
on Windows and Mac (using the mouse if the computer doesn't have a touch
screen). This means you can play with the app even if you don't yet
have an iPad or tablet.
As you may know, we have been working hard over the
Summer to develop and trial our new professional edition, Special Words
Pro. This is perfect for teachers and parents who want to get more
out of the app with their children.
Special Words Pro has all of the content and features of the standard
edition, but there are some extra things it offers, including:
Printing the cards for paper-based activities
Access to our growing library of curriculum resources
On Tuesday, Apple released iOS 11, the latest version of its
operating system for the iPad and iPhone. We have found one issue that
may affect you - see below. This is a free upgrade for compatible
iPad Air and later
iPad mini 2 and later
iPhone 5S and later
All of our apps seem to work well on iOS 11, but if you spot any
problems, please let us know so we can fix them.
Apple have also added a useful new setting, designed to suppress in-app
rating and review requests.
You can find this in Settings
> iTunes & App Store.
We have never included distractions like these in our apps, but you
can always ask us questions and make suggestions, by emailing us or
completing our Contact Form. We always reply,
usually within 24 hours.
An issue you may want to be aware of is that on iPads,
the Control Center > Access
Within Apps switch is no longer present. This poses a
problem if your child tends to swipe up from the bottom of the screen.
We have always recommended turning this off, and oddly the switch is
still available on iPhones. Raising the Control Center on an iPad now
also displays the dock, as shown here. We have been discussing this
change with Apple, and we hope that the switch may be reinstated in a
Meanwhile, we recommend waiting if you haven't yet upgraded to iOS
11. If you have already done so, you can instead use Apple's
Access facility to lock your child into a single app (available
since iOS 6). This means children
can't just quit the app you want them to be using and choose a different
one. It also allows you to disable tapping on parts of the screen -
really useful for preventing little fingers finding advanced settings or
September 11, 2017 - Back to School
September marks the start of our academic school year. For very young
children it may be that their routine is changing as their older
siblings and/or friends are starting school so they are not going to see
them during term-time in the same way. Older children may be starting
nursery or school for the very first time, others moving up a year or
even transitioning to the next stage but in the same school.
Children may have left their old school and now having had their
summer break be starting a totally new school, or have reached adulthood
and even starting college. For many it's the start of a new or different
routine in their life and of those around them.
Perhaps the grown-ups' daily routines are also changing with changes
at home and work, new jobs, going part-time, switching to full-time - so
who does the school-run may be different. How children get to school may
have changed, or are they starting a breakfast club or have after-school
clubs or activities? Some children have moved house so everything has
changed and is different to the routines they had before.
Whichever of these are happening to your family, it's the start
of a new routine for everyone that includes new faces and new places and
new routines. Life never remains the same as we get older - we are
continuously transitioning from one stage to the next.
For some people extra help is needed to explain and introduce new
faces and new routines, and this is where
our Special Stories app comes
in. It's being used around the world in lots of ways, at home as well as
in school, to help children and adults through school transitioning,
home-school communication, and assisting with homework and topic work,
as well as creating stories of special occasions and memories.
Last year Maya started the next chapter of her life when she started
mainstream primary school and you can read more about this
from our blog last year. This September is
her moving-up up to the next class along with her peers.
For William, September 2017 has been a big change. He's started a new
school. Having had 9 years at his last school, which was all the way
through Nursery, Reception, Key Stage 1 and then Key Stage 2 he has now
started Key Stage 3 at our local mainstream comprehensive school.
We bought his new uniform before the summer vacations and he had
transition days last term with his peers as well as summer school, so
plenty of opportunity to meet new teachers and friends and settle
in. Just before school started we dropped off his old uniform to his
primary school and said our goodbyes again. We bought new school shoes,
pens and stationery and all the things needed to start school. Buying a
new uniform and passing on his old uniform is all part of transitioning
from one school to the next. The following day it was waking up bright
and early, on with a brand new uniform, and off to school with all the
kit. A new routine as term started and the summer vacation ended.
Having used Special Stories there were lots of stories about his new
school that he'd helped create, and read for us all to get familiar with
new teachers and his new routine before it all started. We've used
Special Stories since 2011 and have many stories of what he's done over
the years inside and outside school - time on vacation, weekends with
friends and family, and all the special occasions we've had. It's been
good to look back on where he's been and the progress he has made.
The day was silent without him, and we all wondered what he had been
doing and how he had got on. When he came home smiling from ear to ear,
we looked at his iPad together and talked about his day. We hope your
new term is off to a great start too!
September 1, 2017 - Happy Birthday to Special Words!
Six years today we launched our first app, Special Words.
Since then it has been helping thousands of children around the world
with their speech, sight vocabulary, and much more. It's now widely
used in schools and in speech therapy. One father we met at an event in
Parliament in 2015 told us this app had got his son to speak.
To celebrate this anniversary, we will be releasing a major update to
Special Words for iPad and iPhone later this month, which will
The ability to print cards and baseboards
Sheets for recording progress
New curriculum-related resources
Thank you to everyone who has provided feedback and
suggestions for improving the app, please keep sending us your great
ideas! Particular thanks to all of our volunteer translators.
Yesterday we released a free update to
our Let's Sign - My 1st Signs app
for children who are deaf or hearing-impaired. For use on iPad, and
featuring graphics from the Let's
Sign BSL series that's widely used in the UK, the app is designed to
help children learn signs for over 150 words. As well as British Sign
Language (BSL) signs, it also includes variants that will be familiar to
users of Makaton and Sign Supported English (SSE).
New in this update:
If you add your own photos and audio to the app, you can now
share your updated profiles using iCloud Drive.
The app's wide range of adjustable settings are now all in the
app itself, not in the iPad's Settings app.
We've fixed a few minor bugs, and updated the User Guide.
We're thrilled to announce the launch the first in our series of
Teacher Manuals this Fall – and if you're a professional working in a
school or nursery following EYFS in the UK, you're exactly who we'd like
to hear from!
We're holding a pilot of our new Teacher Manual for Special Words on
iPad during June and July this year. Our resources have been developed
in collaboration with experienced teachers and pre-school SEN
co-ordinators, and aim to make it as easy as possible to make the most
of our apps with children under your care. The guidance within the
Manual includes advice on how to enhance learning and development, as
well as helping to assess progress being made in EYFS areas.
People who help us
Life cycle of a butterfly
We've been busy at work creating a new 'PRO' version
of Special Words to be used alongside
the manual, and it's been enhanced with lots of classroom friendly
features such as reporting and recording results. As part of the pilot,
you'll be given exclusive access to the app before we launch it
officially – complete with all of its EYFS resources to try out.
What we're looking for from participants includes comments, reviews
and feedback on the Teacher Manual, our Special Words Pro app and the
additional EYFS resources. We're looking for primary schools and
nurseries who can use the collection with their classes over the Summer
Special Words Pro includes:
Sheets for recording learning progress & assessments
Printable cards and baseboards for classroom use
Access to downloadable curriculum resources
Our EYFS curriculum resources cover areas including:
Geography - Transport, Weather, Seasons...
History - Stone Age to Great fire of London
People & Communities
Understanding of the World
We hope you're as excited about our new project as we are, as it's a
great opportunity to feedback ideas and suggestions as we develop more
in our work to help children with special needs and additional learning
You can apply here to be part of our exciting trial. Be quick to
register though, as places are limited.