Lally Daley, along with two autism experts and web designers, have created a just-released app for children and families of autism. They believe this app will help children with autism learn, thrive and improve their lives.
Emily Mack, 11, has been working with the Skill Champ iPad app for a couple days now and she's completely absorbed. Various programs ask her to identify shapes, objects, colors, and as she gets correct answers, one after another, her confidence builds.
An estimated 1 in 68 children have autism spectrum disorder, a 600% increase in diagnosis in the past 20 years.
This website was supported by families of autism and among the creators is Lally Daley, the youngest daughter of the former Mayor. The interactive programs on this app, called Skill Champ, are designed for autistic children of all ages.
"If the child is two and they're working on number matching, then we have some themes that maybe are of interest to them. And if a child is 16, and still working on number matching, there are some themes that go along with their level," said Daley.
For Emily and her family, the app has already been life changing. Dad, mom and teenaged sister Mary Ellen all had to help with Emily's learning and when Emily couldn't comprehend something. She became very upset. Mary Ellen, who shares a bedroom with her sister, has really noticed the difference.
"When she was not successful at something or wrong, she would get very frustrated, stressed. Now when she gets things right, she's calmer, less frustrated," said Mary Ellen Mack, Emily's sister.
Katie Hench also worked to create this app.
"What we know about kids or individuals with autism is that they respond really well to visual learning and following routines," said Hench.
For Chicagoans who have watched Lally Daley grow up while her father was Mayor, I wondered what she thought her mom Maggie would say about the non-political career path she's chosen, and the huge amount of work she's put into this app.
"She would have said, 'You should be so proud of how many children with autism you're helping, and families and that you're makign their life a little bit easier, even if it's only a minute or two of their day,'" said Daley.
April is National Autism Month. The free app is now available for download. To learn more about it, visit: http://www.skillchamp.org.