Irish company creates web resource to help vulnerable people with stressful events

Easy to use platform helps create bespoke resources for children, adults with special needs

Caitriona Watters-Crehan has spent over 20 years working in the disability sector

Caitriona Watters-Crehan has spent over 20 years working in the disability sector

 

Caitriona Watters-Crehan has spent over 20 years working in the disability sector. She has a special interest in autism and sensory processing differences and in 2017 began drawing the strands of an idea together for what has become Prepare Me, a learning resource that prepares vulnerable individuals to cope with events that can cause anxiety such as visits to the doctor, dentist or hospitalisation.

Prepare Me, which fits into the social enterprise niche, uses a combination of picture stories, video models, visual schedules, gaming and multi-sensory resource packs supported by a soon-to-be-launched interactive web platform to help parents, teachers and carers build bespoke resources for the person they are supporting. The company is also developing a series of ready-to-go packs and the first of these, Visiting the Doctor, was launched in February and has sold over 150 copies to date. Watters-Crehan is currently assembling the packs in-house but her aim is to outsource production to a setting that employs those with disabilities.

“Professionally, my area of interest has always been working alongside people who may be considered to have complex behavioural needs, but I truly believe that needs only become complex when they are not met,” she says. “Ironically, my own little girl was diagnosed with autism and sensory processing differences earlier this year so now my interest is deeply personal although it has always felt like that anyway.”

The company’s platform is being tested at the moment, and rather than creating hypothetical scenarios the testing was based on real life needs as submitted by families. “Over the last few weeks, the big demand has been for ways to explain Covid-19 so we’ve engaged with that and are also looking at assembling a pack for managing the transition back to school and/or the normal routine when the crisis is over,” Watters-Crehan says.

Like many new business ideas, Prepare Me was born out of founder frustration. “Highly visual information is paramount to ensuring that a child or adult gets the best opportunity to understand what is being communicated to them and a picture really is worth a thousand words,” says Watters-Crehan. “Yet it was incredibly difficult to access suitable images and even when you did, you had to spend time formatting the information to suit. Having good quality preparation materials gives the best chance of success with the least amount of stress. I have witnessed too many ‘simple activities’ go dreadfully wrong for a child or adult because they are unprepared for what happens. To give an example, how do you prepare a child who is autistic, has an intellectual disability and does not use words to speak, to have an x-ray at their local hospital? I kept asking myself why is this so hard, why is nobody making this better or easier and so Prepare Me was born.”

Watters-Crehan set up her business in 2018 and while she’s not knocking the resources available, she points out that they’re aimed at “typical” needs and do not “meet a child or an adult where they are at, using their preferred means of communication.” Prepare Me does both and will be of interest to parents, providers of disability services, schools, children’s hospitals, early intervention settings and health insurers.

Watters-Crehan’s goal is to build a business that can be globally replicated and scaled. She has participated in the Enterprise Ireland-backed New Frontiers programme for budding entrepreneurs in Galway and her next step is raising investment of around €400,000 to launch the platform in the last quarter of 2020. “We are still on schedule although Covid has slowed things down,” she says. “Due to the virus, we haven’t been able to proceed with some of the planned investor meetings because you really need the face-to-face interaction for something like that.”

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