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Autism Village Connects Families to Autism-Friendly (and Fun) Places

Autism Village Connects Families to Autism-Friendly (and Fun) Places
Arts & Culture

Now pushing toward its Kickstarter stretch goals, the app puts kids with autism and their families first

Janet Burns
  • 14 april 2015

Autism Village makes it a snap for kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families to connect with ASD-friendly activities, resources, and each other. Or, in other words, it lets them grow their community into a global village.

The app provides “similar functionality to Yelp! or Trip Advisor,” as it allows families to search for and rate their experiences with different locations. Its “one big difference,” however, is that the app is “just for the autism community,” and lets users find the most autism-friendly spots around them, from pizzerias to barbershops.

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The platform comes from Kirby Wurts, a healthy, happy, and engaged kid of 13 with ASD, and his entrepreneur dad Topher.

Their mission, simply, is to “improve the future for millions with autism,” and Autism Village has already reached its initial Kickstarter goal for developing an iOS app and gained tens of thousands of supporters and users. Set on making theirs a totally inclusive community, however, the team is still pushing toward its stretch goals of being able to create Android and iPad versions of the app.

The U.K.-based National Autistic Society points out that, while engaging in a wide variety of activities is both developmentally helpful and fun for kids with ASD, it can be difficult to find environments that are supportive to them. A recent movement to provide more ASD-friendly engagement opportunities has led a number of museums, for example, to offer early opening hours for kids needing lower-stress environments, including such institutions as the Intrepid Museum and the Children’s Museums of Seattle and Atlanta.

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The Pacific Science Center of Seattle, for one, offers two-hour windows before regular opening hours during which the museum’s lights and loud noises—which excite many kids, but can be harsh and discouraging to those with ASD—are turned down for a calmer mood. After taking his son Desmond to visit the museum during one such window, Gordon Tsai told NPR that Desmond was able to open up and take advantage of exhibits in a very new way:

Clearly you can tell he’s interested and he has a lot of questions and it’s just an opportunity to ask them. Normally he wouldn’t even try to, but now he’s totally engaging with them, which is a side we rarely see.

Speaking for the Center, Renee Gervais added that the early opening hours on Saturdays help provide comfortable, meaningful museum experiences for “children who may love them, who may be able to kind of run with them, who may become very inspired by that interaction.”

On why he and his team developed the Autism Village app, Wurts noted that building mobile and online tools to support families like his is a major step toward helping the community “realize better outcomes for their kids.”

Autism Village

Bottom Image: Kduxbury | CC | No changes made

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