Wollongong parents Brad and Jenn Ratcliffe have developed an app to support other families and people on the autism spectrum.
The couple have two children on the autism spectrum and have used their personal experience as parents experienced in the area to create and launch ‘First and Then’.
The virtual visual support app enables families, teachers and carers of people with autism to reduce anxiety with transitioning between activities at home, school, work and in the community.
First and Then has been designed and developed to replace traditional visual supports, such as laminated picture cards, which can be time consuming, costly to create, bulky, conspicuous and limited in function.
First and Then was only release via the Apple Store and Google Play at the start of May but has already been downloaded by hundreds of people in Australia and overseas.
Mr and Mrs Ratcliffe have themselves the app to be very helpful in facilitating smoother and calmer transitions with their teenage sons, Cameron and Coby.
They said the simple technique of using a virtual visual of one activity at a time to demonstrate to their boys what is happening next, has enabled helped their household run more smoothly.
They both want to provide support for families living with autism to enjoy a full and inclusive life.
“The First and Then app is amazing with our boys. For example, with our youngest son, Coby, it supports the school morning routine. It’s not easy for us getting ready for school, but the app has made it much calmer and in turn, there are lasting benefits for the day ahead,” Mrs Ratcliffe said.
First and Then has been designed to be user friendly with infinite options. Personalised visuals can be selected from the camera roll, camera, Google images and the apps’ photo library. To save time and increase functionality, frequently used storyboards can be saved for future use and visuals can be moved across the app. Text can be easily added to each image, supporting word recognition and language development.
Mr Ratcliffe works in special education and said it was reassuring and empowering to take the app with his family wherever they go.
“Our eldest son Cameron finds changing routine difficult, so visually supporting changes when we are out and about reduces his anxiety and helps to calm him,” he said.
Mrs Ratcliffe is so passionate about helping others she recently became the president of Care & Share for Autism. The charity was set up several years ago to increase awareness, inclusivity and support families living with autism.
“Our sincere hope with The First and Then app is to facilitate smooth transitions between activities, potentially reducing stress and anxiety for the person with autism and the people around them,” she said.
The app is internationally accessible. Details http://www.ratpackcreations.com/our-app.html or on Facebook at