Zafer Elcik is the Co Founder of the Otsimo app, which has over 100 educational games created specifically with the needs of autistic learners in mind.
It was great to speak to Zafer as my special guest in this episode of the podcast, and hear about the story of Otsimo!
Zafer works alongside educators, speech and language therapists and families to develop educational games aimed at learning different concepts, as well as a free open source AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) tool for nonverbal children, in Turkish and English.
Zafer is from Ankara, Turkey, where it is estimated that 90% of autistic children do not get an education. The Turkish government offers children with special needs only 12 hours of education per month.
When Zafer got his first smartphone, his autistic brother Alper took a special interest and quickly learnt to navigate the phone. Zafer realised that this was an excellent opportunity to use the smartphone to teach his brother.
At the time, Alper was 6 years old, non verbal and could not read or write, however he could find pictures on the smart phone to communicate. There wasn’t many apps which focused on the learning priorities of children with special needs in mind. For example, they had too much information, animation or colours on the screen, which can be visually overwhelming and cause distraction.
Alongside his university friend and Alper’s teacher, Zafer created simple educational games. The first game he made was aimed at teaching colours and he was so impressed with how Alper learnt through the app, where other methods had not seemed successful.
More educational games followed with concepts such as money, reading, mark making, shapes and Social Stories. Otsimo also now has a free AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) app to help non verbal individuals to communicate.
A lot of children are really motivated by the cause and effect elements of using tablet and smartphone apps and this can be really engaging for them.
Otsimo wants to give families an opportunity to be part of teaching concepts through the use of the app. Supporting families to be part and sharing the educational journey with giving a framework of teaching concepts, social skills and communication.
The app also aim to tech vocabulary can then be further taught and extended in practical contexts, which will help children to understand and generalise vocabulary.
Zafer is working with the Ministry of Education in Turkey, trying to close the gap by giving a tool to support teaching using the app.
Watch Zafer and Alper in the BBC world hacks video BBC World Hacks ‘How brotherly love led to an app to help thousands of autistic children’
I hope you enjoyed this episode of the podcast!
For more information about Otsimo, visit:
A personal message about tablet and smart phone use:
With the ever increasing concerns over the amount of screen time children are having, it is important to note that the use of smart phone or tablet apps must be controlled and structured.
There is a big difference between using educational apps for learning and apps for entertainment.
At school, we must ensure that tablet apps have a learning purpose and most importantly, that children are accessing a range of different practical learning experiences to support generalisation of learning.