Hey Debbie! So, why don’t you start by telling us the story of how and why you came up with Boop.
One of my four children, Nicholas, was diagnosed with Autism during my first year as a mature student at Queen’s University, Belfast. I was studying for a degree in Computer Science. Over the next few years we grew in our understanding of autism together and I learned a lot about Autism through Nicholas.
It wasn’t long before I realised a lack of effective technology solutions made available to individuals with Autism and their caregivers. I also felt left in the dark regarding his education and health care. The communication between the key people involved was inefficient.
In my final year I set about tackling the inconsistencies I had experienced and began to develop Boop. I combined my experience of Autism with my love of software development to create something that would truly impact society in a positive way.
Give us a sense of your own background and how you have been able to apply your particular skills to the project so far.
I developed a very early prototype of Boop and submitted it as my final year project in University. After graduating I realised that my project had the potential to benefit many families worldwide and so made the decision to focus on it’s development full-time. I spent the next two years writing the computer code for Boop, adding new features and increasing its functionality to suit each key user.
I sought advice from 100’s of parents and lots of teachers and professionals in the field of autism. Boop soon became an integrated solution with the aim of connecting all of the important people in a young person’s life.
Some of those reading this might not have direct experience of autism. Could you give us a sense of some of the ways that Boop can help people with autism and those around them better deal with some of the challenges faced?
Boop is a technology solution for everyone, bridging the gap in communication between home, health, and education allowing for a joint-up approach to care. The aim is to help young people with autism to reach their full potential and making it easier for them to understand their world.
Using an online website parents, teachers and therapists can collaborate using tools for creating and monitoring targets, tracking behaviors and moods. They can work together as a team in creating a personalised learning environment focused on the young person’s individual needs. Consisting of visual supports, coping strategies and support mechanisms, this environment will sync to an App on whichever device the young person is using, helping to increase their independence and assist them throughout their day
Before your son Nicholas was born, did you have any experience of autism, and did you ever imagine that you would be pioneering a technology that has the potential to make such a difference to people with the condition and their families?
Honestly, it never crossed my mind. I had no real understanding of what Autism was until I started to recognise that Nicholas was different when compared to his sister and his peers. It was only then I began to research and question the reasons, which could be behind the challenges he faced, that Autism came into mind. Autism awareness is rising but there is still a long way to go before individuals with Autism are accepted and understood.
There is a need for a greater education around disabilities in general and a push towards a more integrated society. Now that we have autism awareness we should be thinking about autism ‘action’, as in what can we do actually support and help these individuals.
I love software development and I am extremely passionate about the project. I could never have imagined that I would be developing something that could create such an impact. I am just happy that am developing a solution that I am passionate about and driven towards ensuring it’s success.
So far on your journey of creating Boop, have their been any people or organisations that have given you support?
Yes Boop has been designed and tailored through the support and guidance of many people. I have had many parents and teachers test the software and help with the development and design. I have had support from various schools in NI and branches of NAS in England have been extremely supportive towards Boop. I have worked with Behavioural and Occupational Therapists over 2 years. All of these people have helped to ensure that Boop is designed with care and attention and with the right people in mind.
Tell us a bit about your crowdfunding campaign, and what you hope to do with the money you raise?
I have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help raise the funds needed to bring Boop to market. This is a highly ambitious project that requires recruiting developers, 3D animators and graphic designers to help complete Boop’s tailored interfaces. The funds will help to promote and support the implementation of the software and to pay for the extensive library of over 20,000 symbols used for creating the visual aids and stories.
Kickstarter is reward-based fundraising, so those who back the campaign will not only be supporting the project’s completion they can also get the software, ‘Boop’, in return for their generosity.
How would you like to see Boop develop in the future?
I’ve developed Boop to assist individuals with Autism but the platform is transferable across other needs. With some adaptations Boop could benefit older persons and adults with Autism. In the future I will look at how the Boop platform could potentially benefit persons across a range of disabilities.
Is there anything that people from the Startacus community can help you both with the crowdfunding campaign and with Boop moving forward?
As a young startup company raising funding can be daunting, but I believe that Boop will provide young people with Autism the opportunity to realise their full potential. We should celebrate differences and learn from them.
I hope that the Startacus community can help me on this journey by pledging their support and of course sharing this campaign within their network.
If you don’t need Boop your support is still very much needed and appreciated. You can chose to a pledge level to sponsor a family or even a school.
If you would like to support Debbie on her journey, pop over to her Kickstarter page.