How we’re working to help children with autism in Uganda Red Nose Day – a chance for us all to do something to help the millions of people around the world suffering from poverty, violence and discrimination. There are so many ways we can all help – anyone can make a difference, no matter how big or small. app2vox is a tool that can improve the lives of non-verbal people or those with autism. It helps them express themselves and relate to others. We want to bring this tool to as many people as possible around the world, and developing countries can struggle to provide adequate support for those who have autism. That’s why we’ve been working with teams in Uganda to help children and young people with autism since 2015. Autism in Uganda: in need of support app2vox, the text-to-speech app specially designed to empower autistic and non-verbal people to communicate with those around them, was launched In Uganda in 2015. Available on Android devices, the app allows whoever uses it to replace natural speech with icons and symbols that are easy to understand for people who are fully or partially non-verbal. Someone using the app can browse categories such as emotions, body parts, foods, drinks, people, adverbs, animals, buildings, clothing, colours, daily routines, negative actions, phrases and playtime. Then, they simply tap on one of the symbols, and the app provides a voiceover. The app also helps people form small sentences so that they can express themselves better, and even has a camera function that allows people to create their own custom icons. Starting small, building something meaningful A pilot programme was run at the Komo Centre for Understanding Autism to introduce 15 children aged 5-17, four girls and 11 boys, to the app. The team behind app2vox donated tablets and lockable cabinets to the Komo Centre, making it possible for children living with autism in the underserved communities around Entebbe to access and try out this innovative tool. Teachers in special needs schools in Uganda would usually use small cards with symbols as a teaching tool for those with autism. Following the success of the pilot programme, app2vox has been able to reach five additional centres and supported over 50 children with autism. One of the 5 centres that has enrolled on the app2vox programme is the Dorna Centre. Seven children and young people aged 7-21 years using the app2vox application. The teacher and the parents are grateful for the support the programme provides. Although initially sceptical, teachers and parents were given training in how to use the app effectively to help children communicate, and after putting it into practice, they found the children in the different centres started to show a lot of improvement. Some of the children even started to vocalise and repeat the different icons and symbols that they learned about. app2vox is now running successfully across a number of centres in Uganda, and many children and their parents are seeing the benefits. Parents, so happy to see their children using it for communication and even starting to make simple sentences, have helped to spread the word and motivate other parents to enrol their children on the programme, which is free of charge at all the centres. Dorothy Nambi, an administrator at the Dorna Centre, says: “This innovation is really great and it’s helping our children with special needs communicate with us better.” How you can help make a difference You can find out more about app2vox, the app that gives a voice to autistic and non-verbal people, here. For more information on ways to support Red Nose Day 2022, go to the Comic Relief website.