Otsimo’s mission is to democratize special education. Cofounder Zafir Elcik noticed his autistic brother’s ease at using a tablet, so he worked with psychologists, parents, and special education teachers to develop a series of touchscreen games to help children with special needs increase self-sufficiency and prepare for academic and social environments.
Otsimo’s games aim to teach concrete skills that range from matching household objects and identifying emotions to learning letters and comparing number values. The games are without exception both intuitive and encouraging. If the user delays in answering a question, the correct answer will bounce up and down. If the player picks the wrong choice, that option silently fades away, giving the user another chance. Whenever the correct answer is clicked, a burst of stars appears with an accompanying round of applause. While the player receives only positive reinforcement, incorrect answers are recorded and accessible in the app’s family view. The family view feature also allows adults to curate their child’s experience by selecting the difficulty level, which vocabulary items to include, and when and whether to give hints. The family view also links to Otsimo’s blog, which contains research updates and other resources about developmental disabilities and learning.
Otsimo offers twelve games in its free version, but a hefty $120 per year gains one child full access to the platform’s content. While the price may be reasonable for the educational quality of the app’s content and design, the expense does limit the product’s reach. There is also room for improvement as the app expands to broader cultural contexts. For example, the facial expressions and body parts sections feature only Caucasian models. As the app becomes available outside its native Turkey, its creators might consider featuring a greater diversity of races and ethnicities, along with different varieties of objects and foods.
Otsimo has been on the market for one year, and has received positive reviews from families and teachers as to its educative value for even nonverbal autistic children. The combination of intuitive content and parent support seems to make this app a worthwhile investment, to help those with special needs reach their full potential.Image: by Nadine Doerle via Pixabay