We’ve all heard about the dangers of social networking for kids and teens. Sometimes it seems like every day there’s another story about a predator who used MySpace or Facebook to connect with an unknowing youth.
But imagine that you had a special needs child. Someone who wanted to make friends online, but who was even more vulnerable to danger. How would you protect them?
That’s where Therapals.com comes in. Therapals is an online social community for children with special needs. Just like Facebook, Therapals lets children create online profiles where they can update their status, “friend” other people, comment on a friend’s status, and send messages or attachments.
The site is the brainchild of an Ohio-based occupational therapist who works with special needs children. She came to Atomic for help making her vision a reality. After listening to her ideas, we were able to design and build a 100% custom site using PHP, MySQL, and jQuery. Alexis Branham created the cheerful, user-friendly design, and I did the back-end coding. Like all our sites, we used standards-compliant code, and this site had a particular emphasis on accessibility.
In addition to providing a safe social networking space for children, the site has some unique features for parents and therapists:
- Update their child’s profile and help them find friends with similar interests
- Monitor all of their child’s activities via a custom activity log
- Approve or deny their child’s friend requests
- Set the system to insert “sensory breaks” at defined intervals – a break when the child needs to stop using the computer and perform a physical activity like hopping or skipping
- Communicate with parents of children on their caseload, and with other therapists around the country
- View, with parental permission, a child’s activities, such as how many sensory breaks they complete, who they talk to, and how much they write
- View a child’s status entries to check keyboarding skills, sentence composition, and social skills
Therapals.com had hundreds of hits on its first day. Now, just three weeks later, dozens of paid and free users are visiting the site to connect and share information.
We enjoy all of our projects, but this site has a special place in our hearts. We can’t wait to see it continue to grow.