Family & Education

9-Year-Old Boy’s Autistic Kid Brother Can’t Talk, So Older Boy Codes a New App to Help Him Explain Himself

TIMEJanuary 17, 2022

Boredom during the pandemic was the impetus for one 9-year-old’s learning how to build a new app—one that could help his nonverbal, autistic brother communicate with the world.

Sean Porter from Southport, UK, learned how to code from his dad, Liam, who owns a cleaning business but was left idling during the pandemic and decided to teach his son.

Then, in the fall, a project at school tasked Sean with designing a computer game, but he decided to use his newfound tech savvy to help his 6-year-old brother, Adam, instead.

(Courtesy of Kirsty Nestor)

Like many children on the autism spectrum, Adam seldom speaks, and finds it difficult to communicate his needs and wants. An estimated 40 percent of autistic children like Adam are nonverbal.

“Sean is older and Adam was diagnosed with autism when he was two-and-half, but he never used to speak or anything like that and had intensive speech therapy,” Sean’s mom, Kirsty, 31, told the Echo.

To help Adam, the app allows him to simply push the icon indicating whether he’s hungry, tired, wants to go to the toilet, or other things.

“It’s just opened up more choice for Adam,” Liam told ITV News. “After we created it, he’s now asking for more things and he’s developing faster.”

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Sean Porter, 9, and his younger brother, Adam, 6. (Courtesy of Kirsty Nestor)

Now, Adam is more easily able to reach out and explain himself to family members and others, though there is still potential for development.

“[Sean] wants to go more into it and if it does go anywhere he wants to make it user specific for each specific child,” Kirsty told the Echo. “Children with autism have specific drinks they want, you can’t just say to them ‘what drink’ they want that drink they are used to having.”

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Sean and the app. (Courtesy of Kirsty Nestor)

Not only has Sean’s invention helped his brother; it’s also garnered him praise at school. His headteacher, Mr. McCann, lauded the lad in a Twitter post, captioning:

“Well this young man has only gone and developed his own app for non-verbal children. Absolutely amazing. I’ve told him to remember me when he is rich and famous!”

The budding entrepreneur has his sights on distributing the app more widely to help more autistic kids like Adam. Sean has already given two tablets with the app to kids in need and is now working on number three.

In the future, he wants to either be a game developer or a professional MMA fighter.

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