FIRST and THEN:
Parents Launch 'First and Then' App to Support People on the Autism Spectrum
Date: June 07 2016
Jenn and Brad Ratcliffe have used their personal experience as parents of children on the autism spectrum to create and launch ‘First and Then’, a virtual visual support app enabling families, teachers and carers of people with autism to reduce anxiety with transitioning between activities at home, school, work and in the community.
The First and Then app has been designed and developed by Jenn and Brad to replace traditional visual supports - such as laminated picture cards - which can be time consuming, costly to create, bulky, conspicuous and limited in function. Released via the Apple Store and Google Play at the start of May, the app has already been downloaded by hundreds of people in Australia and overseas.
Brad and Jenn have found the First and Then app to be very helpful in facilitating smoother and calmer transitions with their teenage sons, Cameron and Coby. The simple technique of using a virtual visual of one activity, followed by another to demonstrate to their boys what is happening next, has enabled the Ratcliffe household to run smoothly.
Jenn and Brad share a passion to provide support for families living with autism to live 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,” comments Jenn.
The First and Then app is user friendly with infinite options as 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 First and Then app. Text can be easily added to each image, supporting word recognition and language development.
Brad, who works in special education, says it’s reassuring and empowering to have the First and Then 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.”
Jenn is the President of Care & Share for Autism, an Illawarra-based charity that aims to increase awareness, inclusivity and support for 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.”
The First and Then app can be shared on up to five devices and is internationally accessible. For more information about 'First and Then' visit http://www.ratpackcreations.com/our-app.html.
ABOUT THE EXPERT
Brad and Jenn have been married for almost twenty years and have two sons, Cameron and Coby, both of whom who are on the Autism Spectrum. Their passion is to provide support for families living with autism to live a full, inclusive life. Their focus is value and respect for people on the spectrum and for their families.
Jenn has recently been appointed President of the Illawarra-based Care & Share charity which aims to provide support for the autism community in the Illawarra region. She is also the author of “This was not on the Brochure”, a book which explores how to live a great life even when things don’t turn out as expected.
Brad works for the Department Of Education as a School Learning Support Officer in a Special Needs Unit at Towradgi Public School. Part of his role is to support the school in introducing technology in the classroom.