Autism Village – is a free ‘tripadvisor®’ app, that has been designed with the aim of helping families who are affected by autism. The app allows the user to identify autism friendly businesses, organizations, and services with the added benefit of being able to read both ratings and reviews based on how ‘autism friendly‘ that service is.
The Autism Village website states that the app can help with the following:
- What restaurants are friendly and have the food we like to eat?
- Where are safe playgrounds or parks where our kids can be kids?
- Where is there a barber or dentist who “gets” autism?
- Is there an equestrian therapy nearby that’s good?
- How about surfing, art, music, play, or other specialty therapies?
Topher Wurts, is the proud father of the Autism Village ‘founder’, Kirby, now aged 13 who is autistic. He was diagnosed with classic autism at 18 months old. The website states that Kirby is ‘happy, healthy, and physically fit, and he loves Thomas and his friends from the Island of Sodor – a lot.’ It is obvious from reading what Topher has to say, that Kirby is the inspiration behind this new and innovative app.
A Kickstarter campaign has been launched, that can be found at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1921567576/autism-village-easily-find-autism-friendly-places and this has been launched so that the Autism Village app remains free for life. Money that is raised will help ensure that the iPhone app is finished and released. Funds that surpass the initial goal will go towards “stretch” goals to do a version for Android, iPad, Android tablets and extending the features, so that the service remains free.
We had the absolute pleasure of contacting Topher and were able to ask him some questions about life with Kirby, Autism Village and what lies ahead for this interactive and informative app.
Kirby is obviously the inspiration behind Autism Village. Can you tell me a little about the early years with Kirby and how life is now?
Kirby was diagnosed at about 18 months old with the help of a friend who was here from New Zealand as an au pair. Kirby’s older brother is 11 months his senior and I was in a senior job at Reuters which involved a lot of travel and so we had the au pair.
Kirby was always a pretty affable and a physically healthy kid but over time it was clear that he was developing differently. In the early days it was just different and sort of cute in an offbeat way. As he aged dealing with the day to day challenges of navigating the “typical” world became more acute for all of us.
We were lucky that we had good advice from friends right after the diagnosis. With an early diagnosis in hand we were able to line up early intervention pre-school and home support. But the process of managing these teams of people became a real burden. And, of course, one has to take an active role in managing the teams and the intervention plans or things tend to go off track. It’s a ton of work and time.
What have your experiences been as a family in trying to access autism friendly places such as restaurants and leisure facilities etc?
Local to home, whenever autism families convene, the discussion always tends toward what are autism friendly places and activities and one builds a personal list. And, of course, one discovers places along the way too. What we’re trying to do with the app is take the word of mouth sharing and make it bigger and broader to benefit us all.
Along the way we also had some terrible experiences trying to make places work and do things that just didn’t work. We got used to “pulling the plug” on things instead of trying to force them.