Children have to learn a lot; how to crawl, listen, walk and talk. When a child is born with a developmental disability, this is no different. They just learn at a slower pace. Everything they learn has to be taught in the smallest of steps.
Small Steps is an Early Intervention program that was brought to the Netherlands and translated in the 70s. Since then, it was due for an update. Although scientifically sound, the program was quite overwhelming to parents, because of it’s sheer size and formality. Fonk and Stichting Down Syndroom came together to create an app that would bring ease and joy back to learning and growing together.
Project Lead: Astrid
IOs Lead: Bart
IOs dev: Marijn
Visual Design: Leonie
UX Design: Stephanie
SCRUM Leader: Karlijn
Parents with a child with a developmental disability.
Kleine Stapjes iOS app
Lovie award: Family & Kids
Lovie award: Best User Experience
Created as a method to help babies and children with developmental disabilities, early intervention programs are exhaustive programs that provide guidelines on what to practice with your child and how. They have been shown to yield great benefits in academic achievement, behavior, educational progression and attainment, and much more.
The Kleine Stapjes Early Intervention program breaks up big learning goals in small steps that are easier for a child to achieve. Our challenge lay in creating a solution that still held all the content of the original folder while making it lighter and more easy to use. Making it a joy for parents to practice with their children again.
It became clear quite early on that these parents needed something that presented the information to them in a way that was easy to process and a joy to view. Many of them expressed that it was hard enough to be a parent without having to lug around a folder large enough to give them a hernia.
So we set out to create an informative app that would communicate to them in a bright, supportive way. Through bright colours and cheerfull illustrations that reward the parents for keeping up with practice, or helping them along through guided empty states.
We felt strongly that these parents shouldn’t be discouraged from practicing but felt their effort should be rewarded without judgement. In order to offer them insight in their progress without having to acknowledge when things weren’t going so well we gave each exercise 3 possible states which the users could organise by toggling their states on and off.
We’re working on it
We did it!
Because an app is used quite differently than a folder, we took a second look at the organisation of the content of the exercises. We found that most of the parents re-read an exercise to double-check if they were doing it correctly, validate that they were making progress or to see if they could consider an exercise successfull so they could move on to the next.
In order to match the mental model of our users we switched around the information. Bringing the summary and validation of the exercise to the top and moving more indepth information, such as an introduction or additional tips downwards. That way we could offer the most important information right away, without having to rewrite everything.
The Program contains several different domains revolving around themes such as; gross and finer motor skills or interpersonal and communicative skills. All essential for a well-rounded development.
Because these domains were so important, we decided to not only refer to them by their impressive names, we also gave each a colour. By enveloping the exercizes in the colours of their own domain, the users could swiftly determine what type of task they would be working on and offer them a bright and friendly interface at the same time.
In the overview of each domain the users can quickly see which of the exercizes they’ve completed, are actively working on, or haven’t started yet. Helping them know where they are in the whole, while being able to easily focus on what’s most important at that moment.
We spoke to all kinds of families about their experiences with the folder. Many of them expressed that they had a hard time working with it. In order to manage the information overload, they would pick out a few exercizes with a professional (such as a social worker or physcial therapist) and just focus on those. This made the information bite-sized and manageable. They stuck these up on a wall and referred to them instead of lugging around the folder.
We wanted to give the parents a similar space within the app, where they could easily find what things they wanted to focus on. We looked at different possible solutions, such as a schedule, to-do or calendar metaphor but found that our users were quite varied in how they structured practicing with their child. Rather than forcing some into a structure that they might not want, we gave them the freedom to create their own structure.
There was already a lot of content available, but the foundation was hoping to expand on that in the future. By offering video’s explaining certain exercises they would be far easier to understand. As you could imagine this wasn’t content they could easily create on the spot so we built them a custom CMS so that they could always edit or add content in the future.
We’ve been able to create this app for Dutch speaking iPad users, but there are far more people out there who need help in developing their child’s skills.
The Netherlands counts 1100 preschoolers with Down’s Syndrome.
In the UK there are 4000.
And in the whole of Europe it’s 34000.
We want to be able to help all of these families, not just the ones we’ve helped so far.
You can help by donating to the Dutch Down’s Syndrome Foundation. How? Get in touch and we’ll help guide you!
No money, but want to help out?
Share this page on social media or get in touch! We need money, but we also need help, a network and off course, a lot of love.
Thank you! 💖