Lisa Brandolo Johnson, a physical therapist, and Jeffrey Johnson, a software engineer, are a married team with three children, who combined our skills along with our personal experience to found Grembe Apps. Grembe’s mission is to create quality, versatile, affordable apps for parents and professionals who care for children with special needs. The use of the iPhone, iPod, and iPad has been a revolutionary new platform for assistive technology, and we look forward to expanding on what we’ve built and moving into other technologies and devices.
Our Story – February 2009
The favorite part of my day as a stay-at-home mom is taking my three children out to a morning activity. They play with other children, and I have the opportunity to socialize with other parents. That all changed when my middle son Graham was 24 months old. Suddenly, taking him out became impossible. He didn’t want to leave the house, and when we did go out, he just tried to escape.
I wasn’t alarmed when he qualified for early intervention services at 19 months, because he had a delay in expressive and receptive language. I did become alarmed when he didn’t want to leave the house anymore, and developed a bald spot from pulling his hair out. All of these problems were huge red flags for autism, but the waiting time to see specialists was lengthy. I wondered what we could do in the meantime.
My early intervention (EI) specialist began a small playgroup in my home. She would bring pictures that visually explained to my son what we would be doing during the group. The EI specialist routinely used the visual cues to help keep my son and the other children engaged. The pictures were an integral part of the playgroup, and helped all of the children with waiting and turn-taking. And best of all, the children liked them.
Because the pictures were working so well, I spoke with the EI specialist about whether I should use them during outings with my son. However, the software was expensive, and creating the pictures would have been time-consuming. Additionally, I didn’t want to draw attention to my son every time we left the house by carting around a book and lots of pictures to assemble.
I began drawing stick-figure maps and creating storyboards. When I showed pictures to my son of where we were going, or what we would be doing, he was less anxious, and was able to leave the house. These storyboards changed our lives!
After extensive testing, my son was not diagnosed with autism, but continues to display autistic traits that make social situations challenging. I wanted to find a way to use the storyboards in the home as well as in the community, as they had proven to be the most successful tools in allowing him to participate socially. An iPhone/iPod app seemed like the perfect solution!
iCommunicate provides storyboards in a portable, convenient format. My three children all benefit from this app, and our lives have become easier because of it. We are once again able to enjoy a morning activity as a family!
Once we saw how helpful iCommunicate and visuals were to our family we wanted to create a behavior management tool and include the use of visuals. iReward is a positive reinforcement chart for your iPhone/iPod.