Approximately 1 in 100 children have an autistic spectrum disorder.
Many of these children can have difficulty understanding the world around them, as well as difficulty in making themselves understood.
My name is Daniel. I'm a father to a beautiful 10 year old boy named Ben. Ben has autism. Autism affects people differently, so just telling you than Ben is "on the spectrum" doesn't tell you much.
In Ben's case, communication is limited. He can speak only a few words, although he can understand many more. He knowns the keyword signs (sign language) for a few more, but he lives in a world where most people don't know sign language. This is not uncommon: the ABS reports that 58% of people with an autistic spectrum disorder have a profound or severe communication restriction.
What he can do though is use an iPad. And it just so happens that lots of adults can too!
In 2014 I was introduced to the team at RHoK -- Random Hacks of Kindness. Together, we set out on a mission to develop technologies that will help Ben to both understand his environment as well as to be understood. My goal for Ben, and the thousands of children like him, is that he can achieve more independence, confidence and happiness by making use of technologies built with his needs in mind.
Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) Australia is a part of a global community of technologists and changemakers who are 'hacking for good'. Twice a year, they run hackathons that bring together volunteer developers and tech-savvy do-gooders to work with charities, community groups and social enterprises. Australia has one of the most vibrant and engaged RHoK communities in the world, and RHoK is Australia's largest and longest running civic hackathon. They also offer ongoing support during the year to make sure that solutions are deployed and used by the wider community.
In 2014, we formed the Benjam Team for the Sydney end-of-year hackathon. In a single weekend we developed a prototype application to help Ben ask for something new. That Sunday night, I used the app with Ben -- it worked!
We're still developing our app. We intend to make it freely available as soon as it's ready. We have big plans and even bigger ideas. And we love company! So please get in touch and join us if you'd like to contribute.
Here's what we've been working on:
- Benjam Communicator: A Ruby on Rails web application for non-verbal kids to communicate using an iPad. Designed to be very easy to use and extend.
- Benjam iOS: An iOS native application built to use Communicator as its data store.
- Benjam Android: An experimental native Android app to test different gestures and inputs.