I recently had the pleasure to hear Gary James, Founder of Apps for Children with Special Needs, discuss the game-changing impact that Apps and iPads/iPhones are having on children with special needs. Gary was kind enough to give us 5 minutes of his time to discuss the site and the many great things they are doing…
1. Tell me about A4CWSN- how did you get started? What is your goal?
Apps for Children with Special Needs was started to help families with children who have special needs save time and money. As a father of 6 children, 2 of them with special needs, I know only too well how much everything costs and that includes things like Apps and the iTouch and iPad. From day one, I had a very strong feeling that the iPad, and Apps offereed, had the possibility to change lives for children with special needs – including my own.
I thought it would be great if people could see these Apps up close on video before buying them. Some of these apps cost as much as $300-$400. As a parent, I found it hard to believe that someone would spend that much on an App just by reading about it on iTunes. So I started the website and began doing video reviews of Apps. Looking back to the beginning (January 18th 2011) the first videos were not that great. However, four months later – and with over 350,000 site visits – they have evolved quite a bit.
The site changes every single day – collaborations and friends have a huge impact on what happens on the site. We now have friends in over 40 countries that we stay in touch with – including an amazing following in Australia.
My goal is simple – help everyone who needs it in any way I can. For example, I give developers a voice in the special needs community. I give the community a way to learn before buying.
2. You seem to be actively using social media to engage with your audience – can you tell me about your approach there?
Well, to be totally honest, I didn’t even know what Twitter or Facebook were all about. Sure, I had played with them and seen them being used in many different ways, but I still had no idea how powerful they really were.
Currently I use Twitter to connect/follow people who provide good information and that way maybe I can learn from their ideas or comments.
Facebook is a different kettle of fish and is much more personal. I am building relationships with people by becoming friends or liking their page. This again, was purely by chance. A few weeks back I decided to see if people who liked my page on Facebook would be interested in getting free codes for iPad or iPhone Apps. The response speaks for itself: I put this together in 24-hours and, with the very generous contributions of some of the top developers, we gave away over 300 Apps to our Facebook community. The next day I was surprised to see that posts on our wall were viewed almost 600,000 times in 24 hours. I was blown away and realized that we could reach a very large audience by doing this and help many, many families all at once.
3. I noticed on Facebook you are promoting an “App Party” on June 11th. What is it exactly? Who should participate?
Well, following on from the last question, an App party is an event I host on my Facebook page, in this case it’s for special needs and education. I approach developers and ask them if I can promote their apps at the party and on my site and, in return, they donate some free activation codes for me to give away at the party.
The Party on June 11th already has some very major Apps and developers participating and we already have over 1000 Apps to give away. The people that I am aiming to help – those that should consider participating – are parents, therapists, schools, and anyone else involved with special needs/ educational matters. (Note: I ask people attending the party not to take a code if they really do not need it.)
4. What advice would you give a parent of A4CWSN who is not tech-savvy?
Well the first thing I would like to say is, I am ready, waiting and willing to talk with, listen to, and help anyone who needs it. My advice is, if you can’t find the answers on your own, then talk to me. You can Skype me (a4cwsn), like me on Facebook , or contact me via email at: Gary@a4cwsn.com.
5. Have you heard any negative feedback about kids already spending too much time in front of screens?
This is a tough question as I think this dilemma will exist in some form for the rest of our existence. Obviously, just like any other infatuation, children need to be monitored by the parent.
6. Do you have a favorite app?
Wow, this is a tough question and I would like to plead the 5th. What I will say is that the best Apps are those designed for a purpose other than just to make money. All Apps should work from day one, without any issues. I cannot stress how much developers really need to spend time with focus groups and have the App tested over and over and over again. One bad review just because of a simple fault can kill your reputation.
7. Courtesy plug time – what one group/person/app/company would you like to give a shout out to here?
I would like to give a shout out to all the parents/educators who are dealing with a child or children with special needs. These are the real heroes, and, if we join together and support each other, then we will accomplish great things.
I would also like to say a HUGE thank you to all of the amazing developers out there that are doing this for the right reasons and I think you know who you are.
8. Anything else we should know?
I am always on the look out for great Apps to video and put on the site, there is never a fee for me to do this.
I also have a page on the site called iPads 4U – this is where I raise money (or you raise money) and every single penny goes into buying an iPad for a special needs child. I have given 2 iPads away since January and have almost 300 people on a waiting list, so if any major sponsors would like to help with this, PLEASE contact me – you would be changing a life forever!
Finally, I will be giving away 1-2 iPad2’s at the APP Party on June 11th. These will be loaded with 200 Apps from my website. The winners can choose which 200 Apps they would like.
I hope you enjoyed this and will help spread the word about A4CWSN. Please let me know what you think.