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Success Stories out of the Institute of Education Sciences' SBIR Program: HandHold Adaptive

Screenshot of HandHold Adaptive® mobile application


HandHold Adaptive® creates smartphone and tablet applications for special education. iPrompts®, the company's flagship application was developed with funding from IES SBIR. This application is used by educators of students with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) to create and present visual supports, such as visual schedules, timers, choice boards, video modeling clips, and Social Stories™. The application allows educators to rapidly incorporate images from smartphone/tablet cameras and the Internet into the individualized visual supports they create, producing on-the-fly scaffolding that helps students make transitions, remain on task, and learn social skills.

Research and Development:

The application was designed iteratively by HandHold's developers using Apple and Android software development kits. To ensure usability, native user interface elements were emphasized when writing code on each of the Apple and Android platforms. Several open-source libraries, such as CouchDB, augmented this effort. Project team members, including HandHold product designers and researchers from the Center for Excellence on Autism Spectrum Disorders at Southern Connecticut State University and the Yale Child Study Center, tested preliminary "Alpha" versions of the software before deploying "Beta" versions to educators and students participating in formal field tests.

Over the course of the project, three feasibility tests (each investigating a component of the project) and one pilot study (of the completed iPrompts® PRO suite) were conducted in Connecticut schools. In one field test involving 29 educators and 88 students with ASDs (aged 5-16), 82% of observations identified a positive impact on student on-task behavior and attentiveness. Every participating teacher felt iPrompts® was not too complex to set up. The pilot study, a randomized controlled trial of 29 students with ASDs conducted in 2013, examined the progress of students whose educators received iPrompts® (on the iPad and iPod Touch) to students whose educators used standard practice visual support tools (e.g., low-tech visual supports).


Available to consumers and educators on the iOS and Android platforms, iPrompts® has on several occasions topped the iTunes sales charts (Medical, Grossing, daily sales). More than 10,000 people around the world have downloaded the software since its introduction to the commercial market. The application was a Finalist in the Reader's Choice Awards (Favorite Special Needs App, 2012), a Finalist at the 2012 SIIA Innovation Incubator program, and is featured in the Autism Speaks online marketplace.

Peer-Reviewed Publications from this R&D:

  • Zamfir, B., Tedesco, R., & Reichow, B. (2012). Handheld "app" offering visual support to students with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Computers Helping People with Special Needs, 7383, 105-112.
  • Newton, D. , Eren, R., Ben-Avie, M., & Reichow, B. (inpress). "Handheld technology for visual supports". Journal of Special Education Technology, 28(2).

Industry Recognition:

In 2013, iPrompts was selected as one of the products listed in Autism Speaks' Guide to Technology.