A pioneering Swinnow dad has today officially launched a disability friendly app giving non-verbal people the ability to text by using symbols.
As previously reported by WLD, Richard Keane’s autistic seven-year-old son Rheuben is non-verbal and his preferred way of communicating is to point to symbols printed on paper, for instance the symbol of a cup if he wants a drink.
But Richard, 34, said there was no way of communicating with him if he was not in the same room and so had the idea of setting up an app, called Symbolsend.
The app is relevant to a large range of people, including non-verbal people on the autistic spectrum, selective mutism, stroke victims and more.
Richard, a chef by trade, is now a carer for Rheuben, who was diagnosed with autism when he was just two years old. He added:
“I started Symbolsend because of Rheuben. We all want what’s best for our children but I am not able to find out his wants and needs whilst away from him. I tried to find a solution to tackle this but soon realised there wasn’t one out there so I decided to create it.
“Symbolsend is the first solution in the world that we know of that allows the remote use of universally used symbols. This means that non-verbal individuals can now communicate with their social and healthcare circles no matter where they are.
“The needs of neurodivergent people have started to be recognised more fully in recent years. This has been due to campaigning and awareness raising by neurodiverse people and their families and allies and we believe that are now at a place where neurodiverse people and their families are more visible and hopefully more confident about asking for their needs to be met.
“Symbolsend literally gives those who are not able to use their voice, for whatever reason, the ability to make their communication possible on new, user-friendly levels. The app facilitates communication and conversation but also allows people to let someone know if they feel overwhelmed or unsafe. This means we are meeting the needs not just of those people but of their families too.”
Richard decided that an app would be the perfect solution to tackle communication issues with Rheuben, but lacked technical expertise to create it himself.
He trawled the web to find a developer who would understand the very specific needs of the app and its users, before linking up with James at Feel Design, who is a former special educational needs teacher.
How does it work?
Using the universally recognised PECS system of symbols, Symbolsend provides a safe platform for people to communicate the way they want to, breaking down barriers and bringing people closer together.
Users simply select the symbols, press send, and the person at the other end receives the message in text form. They then reply by text which is converted and arrives with the other person in symbol form.
Symbolsend was the brainchild of Richard Keane, whose son is non-verbal.
Where do I get the app?
The app is available via The App Store for android and iPhone. There’s a free month’s trial and then it’s just £2 a month for two users and £5 per month for up to 8 additional users.
More information can be found on the Symbolsend website.