Autism App Creator from Lehigh Valley Making Strides
Many people wonder how they can make a difference in the world and spend all life in the search of it, but not Jason Lotito. Through a dream of helping his autistic son lead a better life, he will help millions of special needs children along the way to do so too.
With an estimated 500,000 families that have an autistic child nationwide and 19,862 families in Pennsylvania alone, technology for this growing community has been long overdue. Lotito
and his team are the latest to jump into the rapidly expanding autism app pool as the masterminds behind special needs applications Special Places and Autistic Touch.
"I think the biggest thing we can do for these children is speak out," says Lotito. "Autism is not something to be ashamed of, its not something to be kept a secret. I have a wonderful autistic son, and he is the light of my life. you can learn alot from an autistic child"
"Technology has brought together people who deal with autistic children. I can't imagine what it was like 20 or 30 years ago, if you had a special needs child, to find a support group, with which to pool resources from"
Special Places, which was presented for the first time at Philadelphia Startup Weekend
(#PHSW) last month, will provide the ability to search places with accommodations for autistic children. It will be a platform similar to already existing Yelp, in which families will be able to provide reviews and recommendations of places that welcome autistic children. In a sense bringing together a community to better the child's experiences.
Lotito is allocating most of his time into Special Places because it may in the future be used by a wider audience than just kids with Autism. After the initial version is released, he plans to expand towards its use for other special needs. For example, one of his co--worker's suggested that the app would also be very resourceful, for a family like his, to be able to find locations that accommodate children like his son, who is diabetic.
One of the many people interested in the progress of this app, is different than most as he is not the parent of an autistic child. During #PHSW Bob Moul, co--founder of AppRennaisance
, told Lotito: ''I can't believe this hasn't been built, this needs to be built already'." Lotito says the affirmation was special. In one fell swoop, he was bringing the autistic community together and also garnering support for the improved services for these children.
Lotito's road has been an uphill one. Just a couple of weeks before #PHSW, He had also presented his app Autistic Touch at the Lehigh Valley Hackathon
in March, earning first place along with many kind remarks and overwhelming support. The app allows the child to be interactive with his or her parents in a game-like manner. The main obstacle with this application is that it is for more specific tasks, requiring the child to be familiar with the system, in order to communicate through the service. That would require parents to take time and teach their children how to use it.
Not everything will come easy to Lotito in his goal of providing to those in need, but he has an idea. He would like to provide his apps for free, so people can try them, give feedback, and for him to be able to track its usefulness in the Lehigh Valley. If demand where to grow, he would charge a fee to continually better the services and be able to make it available to everyone.
"We had 50% of the people who were introduced to the idea of these applications (tell us) that they would be interested in using the service," says Lotito.
Special Places has most of its programming done, and is just missing work on its user interface. Lotito would like to dedicate some quality time to make it look better and be more efficient. He plans to make it available for both OS and Android Platforms, so stay tuned to your Application Markets.
to hear Lotito speak more in-depth about his work on LV Tech Radio.
NATALIA DEJESUS MARTINEZ-COLON is a freelance writer based in Allentown. Originally from Puerto Rico. She enjoys writing about news,fashion,music, and technology. Send feedback here.
Photo by Anthony Durante
Jason Lotito (far right) and his team work on tje Special Places app for Philly Startup Weekend.