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I Created an Education App for My Brother With Autism

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My brother was diagnosed with severe autism when he was 2 years old. I was 10 back then. I didn’t know what autism was, but I realized he needed more help of his family compared to others. He had been non-verbal and unable to read for a long time. I remember those days when we wanted him to speak a word.

We learned that early and intensive education is the best way for learning to live with autism, so he started special education schools. Since special education has still a long way to improve in my country, his education wasn’t very effective. In addition to learning problems, he had stimulus problem behaviors like hitting his head with his hand. I bought dozens of toys and played with him to attract his attention and keep him away from the problem behaviors.

I grew up with him. I would take him from his private tutor to the special school every day. Learning a concept could take several months for him. He was having a hard time with focusing and learning. But when I bought my first smartphone, I realized my brother has a special interest in smart devices. He was interested in my smartphone about 10 times longer than his usual level of attention to his surroundings. After that, I bought him an iPad as a gift.

Then I noticed a problem. There weren’t suitably designed applications for children with disabilities like his. Some communication apps (AAC) were too expensive, and the games were very difficult for him. Because of that, he could play only a few apps, some of which included harmful ads.

I was working in a game company back then, so I decided to build a basic color game to teach colors to my brother. In a relatively short period of time, he became able to distinguish the colors. We had been teaching that concept for two months, but with the game he quickly learned the colors.

His interest and success inspired me to build games for every child who can benefit from them, and I created Otsimo, a mobile education platform for children with disabilities, especially autism. We developed more than 50 games with educators and families, and created a free open source AAC communication tool for nonverbal children in different languages, including English and Turkish.

Now I realize that the missing component in his learning was the necessary ABA education at home. It’s been four years since we started to support his education with the games I built for Otsimo, and he is verbal, knows how to read and write, and is not having any problem behaviors now. Also, more importantly, he is happier and more connected with us.

I hope my story can help you to find your way and inspire you to start your own endeavors.

Learn more at Otsimo.

Originally published: March 12, 2018
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