I created an app for children on the Autism Spectrum to become empowered to protect themselves in the face of danger.
I created an app for children on the Autism Spectrum to become empowered to protect themselves in the face of danger.
In the beginning of my creation journey for Safety Aware, I reflected on my own childhood experiences, and how things have changed from the 50’s to the 21st Century teens. Autism was first used for diagnostic purposes in 1943, and has become a term most people are familiar with today. Child abuse is also a familiar social problem all adults know about; some through exposure to the negative experience itself. The Australian government ‘Child Abuse and Neglect Statistics’ reports a steady increase in notifications made for child abuse and neglect in recent times (2011-2016) which could represent an overall increase in prevelence of child abuse. The Australian institute of Health and Welfare also note an increase in Autism in recent years. Although these statistics could be more representative of differences in diagnostic criteria for autism and reported vs. actual abuse in child abuse statistics, everyone seems to agree that both of these problems have steadily increased over time. With technology’s booming growth curve, it was only a matter of time before it could be used as a tool to address these problems.
The invention of the i-pad/tablet, provides a new engaging platform to showcase numerous Apps that inspire, entertain, and educate the masses. Its’ visual-friendly platform shows great promise for children with autism who process visual information quickly and effortlessly. What was (and continues to be) disappointing is the asence of Apps designed for children in any subgroup to teach them the skills required to help avoid or escape abuse. For this reason, I set out to develop a child protection App specifically designed for children with autism which could also be used for all children between the ages of 7-14.
As a teacher of 30+ years, and a survivor of child abuse, this project is an important part of my life’s work. If I can help one child; then my App has achieved success. If it can help thousands of children all around the world, I will take great pride in having shone a prism of light through a storm to reveal a rainbow; thus, making something beautiful out of something ugly.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE AND YOU ARE A MEMBER!
Throughout my experiences as an educator and leader for students with Autism and their “neurotypical” peers (students who are not on the autism spectrum), I have been privileged to get to know hundreds of children. I’ve witnessed each student’s journey throughout the teachings of the ‘village’. The village I fondly refer to includes my colleagues, the community, and my student’s families. I have never been so ego-driven to assume that their learning is exclusively the result of my teaching. I’ve welcomed others to join the ‘team’, as everyone has unique skills and something personal to offer.
Extending my teaching beyond the classroom has resulted in some very rich instruction which has provided opportunities for my students to achieve the best educational outcomes possible.
I now invite you to become a member of the village to help fund Safety Aware as I can no longer do this on my own. Yes.... my vision is big; but a village can do amazing things together!
In the big picture, I envisage making a positive impact on the age-old problem of child abuse. I plan to address this by providing the knowledge and skills required for kids to recognize grooming and abuse, employ strategies to keep them safe, or escape situations that are potentially dangerous through the App.
For those entrenched in abusive situations who have normalized the actions of their perpetrator, I’d like them to question their predicament, understand that they are being violated and trust a safe person enough to disclose what is going on rather than keeping secrets that perpetuate the cycle of abuse.
It’s such an amazing yet daunting goal! How could a small team possibly take on what appears to be an insurmountable task? My solution is by providing information in an unobtrusive way (through games and activities) to alert kids of danger and encourage them to engage their primal fight/flight instincts rather than looking to others for protection.
This blind faith in others can sometimes be a warning sign. An unfortunate truth about child abuse is that perpetrators are more often people in positions of trust than ‘strangers’. It must be so confusing for kids who could be violated by trusted people across all social groups! The only way we can we protect the most vulnerable members of society is by empowering them to trust and believe in themselves.
That is the foundation within which this entire App has evolved— self Trust! Kids need to learn to reconnect with their primal need for protection and awaken their ability to read cues, identify abuse and consider safe strategies to protect themselves.
Please help me turn my vision into something that has the capability to make a positive change in the lives of our most vulnerable members of society. As a village, we can make their world a safer and happier place!
TARGET GROUPS FOR THE SAFETY AWARE APP
The reason I have chosen this population is because they are the most vulnerable sub-group of children on the autism spectrum in terms of being ‘Safety Aware’. Why, you ask? Unlike their lower functioning peers, they are expected to develop a high level of independence. With this comes a multitude of opportunities including higher exposure to community access (e.g., travel training, employment, independent or supervised living situations, social events, shopping etc.). My target group will be expected to make decisions and to navigate the world by themselves. Even when given the very best educational training in child protection, these students often struggle in social situations. Their decisions can often be tainted by misunderstanding social cues, experiencing the trauma of a sensory overstimulating community; all of which can escalate their level of anxiety and interfere with their ability to think proactively and make good decisions around safety.
COMPONENTS OF THE APP:
What you see below is a compilation of all of my ideas ... what the 'seed' has become today! I truly hope I have shared my vision and story in a way that inspires you to want to join me in my effort to make the world a better place.
I have collaborated with a lot of people who have been kind enough to share their expertise with me.
1. Choose a Guide to Navigate the App
Artist: John Hall
The purpose of the Avatar is to allow children to develop characters and file them into ‘social group’ categories which can be accessed for Reflections. Children can choose a friend to guide them through the App by:
- Developing their own characters using the Avatar Maker.
- Choosing a pre-made character (Finn or Megan, or another character).
2. Interactive Books
Artist: John Hall
Several books teaching various safety concepts which are taught through Safety Superheros. In the first wave of Safety Aware, at least three of these titles will be included:
- My Second Skin: Defines Personal, Social and Private Space
- Pay Attention to your Emotions: Superheros EMO and GRANT
- Trust Your Inner Voice: Superhero IVY
- Trust your Feelings: PHIL
- Don’t Keep Unsafe Secrets: Superhero STELLA
- Who are Trusted Helpers and What do they Do: Superhero STORY
- Who are Trusted Helpers and What Don’t they Do: Superhero STORY
- Safety Scripts
- Trusted Helpers and Child Contracts
- Harmful People Can be Anyone
Books have been written by Sally Jones, illustrated by John Hall and edited for appropriate child protection content by Jan Sansom (T.A. Psychotherapist).
3. Safety Scenarios/Quizzes
Safety scenarios will be presented within ‘reflections’ activities which will follow each story or meditation. The concepts represented by the Superhero’s will be reviewed and children will have the opportunity to relate and reflect on concepts through structured activities such as writing, drawing or interactively responding through iPad activities.
With Daniel Warples (https://youtu.be/G07xAbHnM7Q) hangdrum track as background music (Hang in Balance by Daniel Warples, used with permission from the artist), Yvette Doudle takes users through two (possibly 3) meditations (developed by Yvette Doudle – Meditation Teacher, and Sally Jones) to help them reconnect with their feelings, inner voice and gut reaction.
Following meditations, users will have the opportunity to engage in a drawing or journal activity. Users can keep these in a password protected area of the App or save them in their camera roll. If chosen, they can send them to a Trusted Helper or therapist via email.
Kids relate to music, so this had to be part of Safety Aware!
For the first wave of the App, Kiera Smith (a well-established South Australian Singer/Songwriter) and Sally Jones collaborated to create and produce three songs that go along with the concepts of the App. These songs are as follows:
- Tell, Tell, Tell-- encourages users to tell unsafe secrets about someone threatening to harm them or their family, etc. to stop kids from disclosing abuse
- Safety Script Incorporates strategies from books into a script to help users remember what to do in the face of danger.
- Safety Hero Connects concepts to the safety hero within the user.
For a sample of Kiera's work, please see: https://youtu.be/M-47FUi9Fm0
There are endless possibilities for expansion of the Safety Aware Project! With funding, the project can proceed as described above. If we exceed our goal, Safety Aware will receive the marketing and promotion it deserves to reach its intended audience and start empowering children to learn the skills required to identify and avoid/escape abuse. Once this occurs, we can plan for the second wave of Safety Aware!
I have worked with the Appster team to plan exciting new additions to the App for the second wave! Stay tuned and follow our progress! Thank you for your time and support for a project that promises to support children on the Autism Spectrum to find their Superhero within and engage their primal instinct of self protection.
Risks and challenges
Risks and Challenges
1. I have to ensure that the content of the Interactive books is appropriate to: (i) the sensitivity of the topic, and (ii) the complex needs of my primary target audience (children on the autism spectrum).
(i) I have had Jan Sansom, a psychotherapist read through the stories to ensure that the child protection approach is appropriate for the target group.
(ii)I know from my experience as a teacher who has worked extensively with children on the autism spectrum that I have differentiated the APP on several levels to accommodate a wide variety of needs specific to this population.
2. It has been challenging working with people in different states (Melbourne, Sydney and South Australia), and countries (the UK and USA) to ensure that we come together as a cohesive team who work towards the common goal of delivering a high-quality product that fits the brief I’ve provided.
The Safety Aware team consists of a group of very talented individuals who have been carefully chosen to contribute their expertise to the project. I have also spent two full days workshopping with the Appster team to ensure that their brief and full understanding of the project is consistent with the vision outlined in this fundraiser. Although there could be slight alterations (for example, colours of screens and clothing will vary as we have discovered that children with Autism perceive colours differently, the project will look similar.
I communicate with other members of the SafetyAware team through social media, emails, phone and face/real time. I have worked for years to frame the concepts, and team members have been excited to be part of a project that attempts to make life better for the vulnerable members of society. This incentive has motivated members of the Safety Aware team to produce their personal best, and I am proud of the work each member has contributed to the cause!
John Hall, the design team at Appster and I have joined an App called Basecamp to communicate on all aspects of the project.
Overall, I believe we have an amazing team who has each made valuable contributions to the project.
1. That I have not set my tipping point well. If I overestimate costs, then I could get nothing as Kickstarter is an all or nothing platform. If I underestimate, I won’t have enough funding to cover the costs of having the entire App Developed.
To ensure that I get the appropriate reach I am working with a marketing and promotion team who is supporting me throughout the fundraising process to ensure that the above issues do not occur. Hopefully, this lowers the risk and enables me to reach and surpass my tipping goal which would support me in recovering personal costs incurred prior to fundraising; and give me the money required to release the entire App following the campaign. If I reach the tipping goal but do not raise enough money to produce the entire App, I will release the App a little at a time.
2. I risk the chance that people won’t find the App.
I will work with the marketing and promotion professionals to help find and contact backers who have the common interest of: reducing child abuse and mental health issues that result because of this issue (e.g., those who suffer from anxiety and depression); family, friends, professionals, philanthropist groups who support children with autism -- or victims of abuse -- educational institutions). They will be informed and directed towards my website or social media to locate the App. Ads will also help people locate the App.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)