Swiss Cottage School teacher, Tom Casson, co-founder of ‘How Do I?’ has developed a new app to allow people to live, learn and work more independently.
Tom explained, ‘How Do I?’ harnesses NFC technology to teach life and vocational skills through easy to access step-by-step videos.
Swiss Cottage School in the London Borough of Camden, meets the needs of children aged 2-19 with complex learning difficulties, emotional, behavioural and communication difficulties and those on the Autistic Spectrum Continuum. ‘How do I?’ is a social enterprise, majority owned by the Swiss Cottage School Charity.
Tom has been at the school for six years. Starting as a teaching assistant. He has now been teaching life skills for three years.
He explained the app uses the same technology that goes into contactless bank cards. Users need to download the ‘How Do I?’ app for Android onto their mobile phone free of charge and turn on NFC in the settings.
NFC stickers / tags, can be purchased and placed around the school, house or workplace. For instance one of the distinctive pink tags could be on a toaster. The user can then just tap their phone on the sticker to launch an easy step-by-step video on how to complete that task and make toast.
Tom said: “It might be that they need this help once and then they learn it, or it could be that they need the video reminder every time. If they are likely to forget one or two steps - it can be helpful.
“We’ve built in a number of features to support our users, including an auto pause so the user can complete it at their own pace.
“It’s not like a video where they would need to pause it themselves, it has that auto feature built in.”
All the videos are packed with user-friendly features to help people with additional needs easily follow all the steps to successfully complete the task.
For those with learning difficulties, autism or dementia, being able to do basic daily tasks for themselves is very important for self-esteem and independence.
Tom said: “‘How Do I?’ has uses far beyond its use by students at Swiss Cottage School. The more we talk to people the more we realise this.
“It started as something that I developed in my life skills lessons here and the idea grew from a project into more of a business.
“Good design is accessible and inclusive and we have talked about the use of ‘How Do I?’ in early stage dementia, or acquired brain injury.
“If you think that at one time automatic doors were at first installed for wheelchairs users, so they could get into buildings - while now people just see that as the norm - we want this app to be like that.
“In my experience, when my friends and I are learning new things, or if we have forgotten something, we look for a Youtube for a video. However, that is not accessible for a lot of our students - whereas the app is.
“It was my own idea through my work at school and we entered a Nesta inclusive tech prize last year and won a recognition award. We got funding from that and we’ve got to a point now where we’ve been able to launch the app.
“We know that it works in a school setting and we’re now raising awareness. We’ve also got a trial set up with My Life, a supportive living facility.
Swiss Cottage school has a purpose built flat with its own kitchen, equipped with appliances including a washing machine.
The focus of the whole school is independence and from age 14 plus, Tom said there’s a real push for independence. The flat is used to help to prepare students for residential trips.
Tom said: “We try to cover all bases at the school from travel, to money management and careers.”
He said the app is not something “we envisage could take away a support carer - it is just giving someone who needs it the autonomy and the choice to do some things themselves.
“We know self esteem and self confidence and being able to make choices can lead to greater happiness and improve general wellbeing.”
For more information e-mail tom@ nfchelpsme.com, visit www. nfchelpsme.com or tweet @ nfchelpsme