Making Authentic Friendships is a new web app that helps kids and adults with special needs connect with people who share similar interests and abilities. The app launched in August and so far has almost 300 active users in 26 states and on five continents.
Your child must be 13 or older to make an account on the app. She can use the app herself, or you can use it and connect with people on her behalf (which will be displayed to other users). When making an account, your child will be prompted to provide her age, gender, diagnosis (there are 14 options, and an “other” section where you can write a description that best fits your child), and her interests. Once the account is made, he will see a map of every other user in his area and around the world, allowing him to chat with anyone. Conversation prompts will relate to both users' mutual interests, stimulating conversation and interaction.
Juliana Fetherman, founder of the app, was the president of the autism awareness club at Sacred Heart University, where she earned her Bachelor’s and Masters degrees, and knew she wanted to focus on helping individuals with special needs through her career. Her brother, Michael, has autism and ADHD.
I loved being the president of the club–it was a lot of work, but it didn’t feel like work,” Fetherman said. “I thought, I could definitely do this with my life–if I could just figure out what’s missing in my brother’s life.”
Fetherman explained that Michael has a difficult time connecting with friends who share his interests. Fetherman realized there might be many individuals on Long Island and across the country who might be feeling the same way, with no medium to connect on, and the idea for Making Authentic Friendships was born. Fetherman worked on the app for three years before launch.
Making Authentic Friendships is moderated for safety, so any inappropriate messages will automatically be flagged and blocked. For more information on how Making Authentic Friendships can help your child connect with others, visit the app’s website.
Main image: Founder Juliana Fetherman’s and her brother Michael.