Fujitsu today announced the development of "Special Support Smartphone App," an Android OS-based smartphone application that provides lifestyle and educational support to children with developmental disabilities (such as learning disabilities and autism), intellectual disabilities, and other special needs, as well as their guardians and caretakers. Starting today, the new application will be available free of charge for one year.
The new Fujitsu-developed application underwent field testing from July 2011 to March 2012 as part of a joint research initiative with Kagawa University to test the effectiveness of using smartphones to provide lifestyle and educational support. Since then, enhancements have been made to the software in terms of its functionality and ease of use.
Features of the Special Support Smartphone App
Children with special needs often require help in areas such as understanding time, communicating, making schedules, handwriting, and expressing emotions.
To assist with these needs, Fujitsu developed five Android OS-based software applications: Timer, Picture Card, Stroke Order: Hiragana, Stroke Order: Kanji, and Feeling. These applications provide a visual representation of the passage of time, communication and visibility, the stroke order of characters, and the category and intensity of emotions that the user wishes to express.
By leveraging the ability of smartphones to display a diverse range of visual depictions, the application aids children in understanding conceptual information by visualizing. Moreover, the software can easily be navigated using touch-based operations, thereby helping to expand the range of users who are able to take advantage of it.
Background and Aim of the Development
The number of children in Japan requiring special assistance due to developmental or learning disabilities includes approximately 600,000 children in regular schools and nearly 100,000 more in special needs schools and classes. In 2005, the Act to Support Persons with Developmental Disabilities was enacted in Japan, and, year after year, there is a growing need to support children requiring special assistance due to disabilities.
Fujitsu has long been working on universal design initiatives that seek to enable broad accessibility to the world of information and communication technology (ICT), and the company developed the new software with the goal of raising the quality of life for children requiring special assistance through the use of smartphones—a rapidly spreading ICT platform that has become an integral part of our modern lives.
Overview of the Joint Effectiveness Verification Research
In collaboration with Kagawa University's Faculty of Education, which is actively involved in the use of ICT in education, Fujitsu conducted field tests of the software from July 2011 to March 2012 to verify its effectiveness by lending smartphones pre-installed with the special support application to teachers and guardians of children attending the School for Special Needs Students and the "Subaru" Classroom for Special Needs Students, which are both affiliated with the university.
In the field tests, there were cases in which, using the tracing feature of the Handwriting application, children were able to reduce errors in their writing and gain confidence and an improved desire to write. There were also cases in which, by using the Emotions application to widen the scope of their expressive abilities, children who were previously only able to say "This is fun" in any given situation learned how to articulate more appropriate emotional responses, such as "I'm tired" or "I'm happy," among other results.
Free for one year starting October 12, 2011. (The software is scheduled to be available until the end of October 2013)
* Availability is subject to change without prior notice.