It only takes the one. One person to make you want to make a change. One person to give you inspiration, an inspiration to create something that will end up helping thousands.
And my “one” was my brother. He was diagnosed when he was two. Back then, when I was a child myself, I had little to no knowledge on what autism was and how to deal with it. I grew up with him, and with this disorder.
I learned that there was no “cure” for it, and early and intensive education was our best option to provide my little brother a normal life. The special education options in my country were both lacking and expensive. Unlike many, we were fortunate enough to afford special education school, since my brother was not accepted into public schools. He couldn’t read or write and he was non-verbal. On top of that, he had problem behaviors. He would clap his hands and hit his head when he was overwhelmed.
I wanted to communicate with him so badly. We bought him dozens of toys and I played with him all the time. I tried to attract his attention away from problem behaviors. I would take him from his private tutor, which was the only education he could get, to his special education school. These were our only options available. He couldn’t focus or pay attention to anything for stretched amounts of time. This affected his learning. It would take him months to learn a single concept. I wanted to know what was going on in his head.
Once I realized his interest in my smartphone, I decided to buy him an iPad on this birthday. I thought we had an option now. I immediately started looking into apps that he could play and would be helpful for him. My search for educational game apps for children with autism wasn’t successful. The communication apps (AAC) were too expensive, games were not suitable for children with autism, or too difficult to figure out. They were full of ads that would distract him.
This never sat right with me. How could there be no accessible and affordable games for children with autism? For a disorder that affects one in 54 children now. This inspired me. With my background in computer science, I was able to build a basic game to teach colors to my brother. I remember my heart filling with joy and hope when he was able to distinguish colors in such a short period of time compared to his past performance.
His interest in the game as well as the success he had with it boosted my inspiration. I built Otsimo, a mobile education platform for children with special needs, especially autism, so that every child can benefit from the game like my little brother did. I set out to provide a decent special education at home to my brother. This, I realized, was the missing component in his learning process. After using it to support his special education at home, now, I’m proud to say that my brother can speak, read and write. He is happy. He is connected.
With our Otsimo Speech Therapy and Otsimo School and Classroom apps, we have reached hundreds of thousands of families and education specialists in over 180 countries across the world. What keeps us going is the daily messages we receive from the parents telling us how our apps helped their children learn to speak, learn colors and everyday items. Through our blog posts, we also wanted to inform everyone seeking to know more about the disorder and what it takes to improve the quality of life for those with special needs. We grew with the feedback we received from the families and expanded the number and types of games exponentially. Every step we took since the foundation of Otsimo has been to get one step closer to democratize special education.
Our mission has always been to reach every household that needs special education at home. For this April, we decided to present our apps to the special education community with more than 70% discount. This is our chance to reach communities we haven’t reached yet, an important aspect of our mission to provide easy and affordable access to individualized special education for every household in need, especially during this time of social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It only takes the one. My one is my brother. But through the inspiration he gave me, I have managed to create an app that ended up helping over 200,000 families in their journeys. At Otsimo, we strive to provide accessible and affordable special education to each and every household that needs it. I hope my “one” has also inspired you to take action in our journey to democratize special education.
The world is going through tough times now. Our lives are rapidly and drastically changing due to the COVID-19 outbreak. We are working %100 remotely to ensure our health and safety. In such a time, we wanted to make sure everything runs smoothly to provide uninterrupted special education to all our little heroes. Our infrastructure and systems are ready to do what we do without any major disruptions.
In light of the recent events, we decided to help alleviate the stress the caregivers might have in these uncertain times, so we are going to make significant discounts on our apps to the best of our ability and means.