PeerKnect: A game-changing app developed to solve the social gap for neurodivergent kids and improve their development, play skills, and quality of life.

Social interactions are essential for young children as they learn how to connect through parallel or imaginary play. These interactions are an important key to developing play, social, and communication skills—skills like cooperating and collaborating, verbal behavior, picking up on social cues, greeting each other, etc. For children with autism, learning play and social skills is just as essential, but it can be a more difficult and longer process. Finding other children to interact with can be a challenge for autistic children but also extremely challenging for their parents, especially if their child engages in interfering behaviors. Lack of social interaction can lead to isolation, depression, or anxiety and can have long term effects as well.

Therapists often attempt to fill that gap by engaging in play with their client themselves. However, even when a child does begin to acquire these skills through the therapeutic process or parental interactions, finding opportunities for children to practice these skills and/or make friendships is often a difficult task. Finding peers for play dates and social outings, finding community events that are inclusive to individuals with certain sensitivities, or even trying to organize an event on your own are all time- and energy-intensive and often lead to the “simple” solution of not having social time outside of therapy sessions or the home environment.

As a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) who provided one-to-one therapy to neurodivergent children, Emily Bruce decided to develop PeerKnect, a unique smartphone and web-based application designed for parents to easily find inclusive social events and to connect neurodivergent children with nearby peers to arrange playdates and other social outings.

As a mom, Emily knew the value and importance of friendships and social outings for her own children, and she wanted the same for her clients and other neurodivergent children and their families. Before developing the app, Emily had repeated experiences of parents asking for help getting their autistic child connected for a play date or expressing how difficult it was for them to find peers for their child to interact with. She had one parent of a teenage client express how their child had never had a playdate throughout childhood, and that although they tried to find friends for them through school, church, and social media platforms, they were never able to make any connections. 

Emily knew there needed to be a tool to bridge that gap.

And that is how PeerKnect was born.

PeerKnect was designed with the child and their support system at the center. It was important to make it easy and safe to use and address any possible challenges like finding a location, matching age, diagnosis, or social skills, protecting identity, and allowing the subscriber to find an event or create one themselves, and more!

With autism diagnoses rates on the rise, there is a need for more resources for parents, improved community support, and continued promotion of inclusivity and awareness; however, families are finding longer waiting lists for services, few inclusive events, and increased isolation. With this increase in diagnoses, there has also been a strain placed on behavioral health providers limiting their ability to provide services to all families. This leads families to look for other options and resources to help their child.  Many recent advances in e-health, telehealth, and MHealth applications have provided parents with options to engage in behavioral health opportunities for their child, such as learning behavior management strategies and improving adaptive, play, and social behaviors.

PeerKnect is one of the top technologies of its kind and can be used as a tool for both parents and therapists looking to improve social interactions or build friendships for their child or client through peer-to-peer engagement. It is also a medium for parents and caretakers to learn about local, statewide, or national events that promote community inclusion for individuals who are neurodiverse or require other accommodations. 

Parents can try the app for free, therapists can use it during their sessions as an adjunct to their therapy process, and businesses can use it to share and promote special events specific to the special needs community. PeerKnect bridges the gap between parents, therapists, and businesses to facilitate friendship-building and social connections, vital components of growing up.

Learn more at peerknect.com

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