August 15, 2018 - Preparing for the new school year
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
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!
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
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.
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
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
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
or message us on
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
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
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!
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
July 19, 2018 - Learning the Signs for Garden Wildlife
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
Picture to word matching
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
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:
July 11, 2018 - We're Off to See 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
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
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
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.
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
Words app. It all couldn't be easier! Our user guides
explain the many ways of transferring content between our apps.
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
or Instagram or feel free to drop us an email
July 10, 2018 - Dan Gilchrist joins Our Team
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
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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!
Bedwetting is an issue we all face with our children and to mark such
a hurdle, today
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
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.
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
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.
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
Let us know over on
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.
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.