All over the world, hundreds of thousands of families go through the every-day struggles of communicating with loved ones who have severe cerebral palsy. Martin Brooks and his wife Sarah Phelan, who reside in Hertfordshire, England, are one of those families.
Their five-year-old daughter, Mia, developed her disability after she was deprived of oxygen at birth. In her current state, Mia can’t walk, talk, or control her movements. Their attempts at communicating with her to find out what she needed and what she wanted extended as far as picture cards, which, for the Brooks family, was “slow, inaccurate and frustrating.”
When Martin got an iPhone last year, he was impressed when he saw the millions of apps in the App Store that catered to just about anyone. But after spending some time digging through the apps, he realized there wasn’t anything that fit his daughter’s needs. So Martin took matters into his own hands and teamed up with an app-development firm called Bappz.
In nine short months, Martin developed an app called iComm. Amazingly, the app allows Mia to make decisions about what she wants to eat, what she wants to play with, etc, all by using her eyes. Martin also made the app fully customizable so that he and his wife could upload their own photos and voice recordings to further aid Mia in her choices.
As a result, Martin says, “…it’s given us a form of reciprocal communication. Now I can ask her what she has been doing and she can reply. It’s allowed Mia to become much more sociable.”
Since its release, the app has been downloaded by more than 1,300 people, most of whom have sent Martin Brooks their thanks and explaining the difference it has made in their child’s life.
It’s so great to read technology-success stories like this one. I know that a lot of the topics that revolve around Internet-safety usually have somewhat of a negative connotation to them, but we can’t forget the many wonderful things that technology has allowed us to do. I mean, who would’ve thought that a phone app would’ve given Mia the ability to communicate with her parents—an ability that would’ve been unimaginable 10-20 years ago. I’m so happy for Martin and his family. Because of his creativity, motivation, and love, he was able to change his daughter’s life forever.
Please share the application with anyone you think may benefit from it. It can be found here. I want to help support the Brooks family.
On another note, I’m excited to see where other app developers take this and how they’ll improve upon the technology that Martin created. If you want to read more on this inspirational story, check out the original article here.
UPDATE for July 8, 2010.
On July 1st, Martin Brooks was named the 2010 Dad of the Year by Bounty, a UK-based parenting club. If you’ve already read the story above then you’d probably agree that Martin totally deserves this award. What he’s done for his daughter, Mia, is nothing short of amazing.
In addition to winning this award, Martin and his family won an overnight stay at one of the themed hotel at Alton Towers and a two-day pass to their theme park.
“Becoming a father is the best thing that has ever happened to me and I treasure ever minute we spend as a family. Mia continues to inspire me every day and with number two on the way I am extremely excited about becoming a father again.”
Faye Mingo, spokeswoman for Bounty commented: “We were overwhelmed with the response we had to the competition and congratulate Martin on receiving the most votes from our members. He is certainly a very worthy winner and a dad that will always go the extra mile for his family, taking inspiration from his role as a father. We wish him and his family all the best for the future.”
But Martin is proving that his efforts aren’t stopping there.
On July 5th, he released his second app, iSpy Phonics. This app “enables children to match phonic sounds with letters, through colorful illustrations, pictures, and accurate pronunciation, all whilst playing the age old game of I Spy. It provides a fun and highly interactive way to help children learn to recognize letters and their phonic sound – the first stage in reading.”
Download the app here.