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Local Special Educational Needs app to be launched soon

Synergise, the new locally developed Kusuma Trust sponsored app tailor made for young people with Special Educational Needs, is set to launch within the next two months following the successful rollout of its website late last year.

The brainchild of Nicole Torres Byrne from the Gibraltar College and developed within Gibraltar by Vali Fragoso’s team at software development start-up ‘Cobovec’, Synergise has been designed to promote independence among young people.

The idea behind Synergise was inspired by another app developed by a Scottish charity called enable which offered services to its users such as travel assistance and a work log.

“I thought the app was great because it could consolidate some of the things I was looking for but it didn’t really work for us,” said Ms Byrne.

“With this being said the app was always in my head, I was wanting one for Gibraltar but I’m not in that techy world and I couldn’t do it alone, I needed to find someone and it was by chance I met Denise Matthews who put me in contact with Vali.”

“We spoke about what we wanted from this app, we wanted it to be very much a self-help style thing so that young people who have difficulties and find barriers in life do not have to have those barriers.”

“We wanted this app to be there to help them overcome the barriers whether it’s through the travel plan, self-help or one of our other features.”

Some of the features that will be made available through the app will be the ability to import contacts, contact emergency services, search for jobs and speak to teachers among others.

Ms Fragoso said: “The app covers many features but one of the main ones is the self-help function, we want these young adults to be more independent than they are right now.”

“Some of these young adults want to look for jobs so we have included job portals, they will of course still get help from Nicole, but if they see a listing they like they can send it direct to her and apply for it.”

“There will also be a text-to-speech mode so the app can read everything to the user if they don’t know how to read which will also be very useful for young adults who have dyslexia.”

“Overall, I think it’s a good start, it’s a first step, I won’t say it’s the final product but at the end of the day we are here to make the improvements and we look forward to seeing how it performs.”

The pair, who have also been asked to showcase the app at next years European Union of Supported Employment Conference in Oslo, have also ensured that there is a strong link between physical lessons and the app in order to create a feeling of familiarity for its users.

Ms Byrne said: “The app will also have the same pictures within it that I will use during lessons so it’s all linked and the idea is if the youngsters don’t know how to read, they can recognise which is very important because a lot of my young people actually recognise more than read.”

With £15,678 worth of Kusuma Trust funding which will support the development and first year’s maintenance of the app now secured, there is a sense of a journey coming full circle as told by Ms Byrne.

“When I did a professional development course five years ago I became a supported employment practitioner, but the course was £2000 and it was paid for by Kusuma Trust.”

“To me it seemed very relevant to go back to them and ask for funding as it was thanks to them that I can do this professionally and now it’s the fruits of that initial funding that we are about to reap.”

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