John Ciocca’s dad is a special education teacher and his older brother, Christian, has Down syndrome. Living with both of them has given John a clear view of the challenges that kids with special needs face, especially when communicating and making friends. Because he had taught himself how to build apps, John decided to devise a digital way to help Christian, 19, as well as other kids.

John created MyVoice, an app that helps people with speech disabilities communicate with the help of images. Users find the picture they need, tap it, and let the app do the talking. Next, he created YouBelong, a social media app similar to Facebook that allows people with special needs to find friends without the risk of bullying.

MyVoice has been downloaded 500 times and YouBelong has more than 900 users. One of these is a friend of Christian’s who he’d lost touch with. After finding each other on YouBelong, the two were able to reconnect. The app gets a big thumbs-up from Christian. “I like it a lot because I can post and make new friends,” says Christian. For John, it’s just gratifying to know that his apps are helping all kids find the friends they deserve.

Teen Creates App to Help People With Special Needs
Duration: 0:58 | Watch a video to meet John, who created apps to help his brother, who has Down syndrome.
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