Tag Archives: app

Graduate develops app to help special needs children enhance their social skills

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Aram Abubaker was presented with a challenge. A friend who worked with children with special needs was looking for something that would help enhance their social skills. Abubaker responded: He made an app for that.

Aram Abubaker

On Nov. 20, Abubaker joined nearly 700 undergraduate and graduate students who received various degrees at Tennessee State University’s Fall Commencement ceremony. Abubaker got a doctorate in computer engineering, where he improved his software developing skills that aided him in making the PeerKnect app.

According to the app’s website, 93 percent of parents or therapists say their child or client has difficulty finding social interactions. The app is intended to provide children with opportunities for connection and to help develop social skills which can increase confidence and autonomy.

“Many parents with special needs children have a problem finding play dates or finding friends for their kids because they have some kind of special need,” said Abubaker. “The app facilitates the process of connecting parents, therapists, and businesses that work with children with special needs.”

By teaching or enhancing their social skills, Abubaker said the kids can become “more engaged, and feel less isolated.”

Emily Bruce is a board-certified behavior analyst and Abubaker’s business partner. In her therapy practice, she said many parents with special needs children ask about ways for them to connect socially, have a play date. She said many of them were unaware of sensory friendly events in their area, like a local mall in Nashville, Tennessee, that allows kids with special needs to take pictures with Santa Claus on a certain day and time in December.

“There are a lot of businesses out there that will host these events because they want families of children with special needs to be included,” said Bruce. “So, we wanted to add that as a feature (to the app) where businesses can post their events. And then of course we wanted to get these families connected either with another parent, or with a therapist. We’re getting users every day, and it’s really wonderful to see people respond to this.”

Roseanna Martinez is a special education teacher in Phoenix, Arizona, who has been teaching special needs children for more than 20 years. She said she likes the connectivity the app provides.

“I think it’s a really neat idea,” said Martinez. “One of the things I find interesting is that parents can link up with other families with kids like theirs. That not only gives kids an opportunity to socialize with people who understand them, but it also gives parents a bigger community to work with.”

“The other thing that appealed to me is the sensory friendly places,” added Martinez. “That’s a big deal. You never know till you get to a place how it’s going to be and how the kids are going to react. So, it’s nice that they (parents) have a little insight into that before they take their kids out.”  

Dr. Robbie Melton is dean of TSU’s Graduate School and Professional Studies and associate vice president of the university’s SMART Global Technology Innovation Center. She encouraged Abubaker to participate in the center’s “Everyone Can Code & Create” initiative, a partnership with Apple. The initiative improved Abubaker’s problem-solving skills, and aided him in finding solutions, such as developing PeerKnect.  

“The Graduate School takes pride in providing both a supporting academic and social environment in helping students like Aram surpass their potential,” said Melton. “Aram is truly a role model!”

Abubaker said developing the app was hard work, but he believes it will help many people.

“I’ve spent hours working on this, and I’ve enjoyed the process, because I believe this is going to change people’s lives,” he said.

To learn more about TSU’s Computer Science Department, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/computer_science/.

For more information about the SMART Global Technology Innovation Center, visit https://tsu-smartinnovationtech.netlify.app/.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and eight doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU app to provide ‘convenient’ way for students to register for classes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Class registration will soon be a little more convenient for TSU students.

By the fall, students will be able to use a new mobile app to register, drop and add classes. The app, released in January, is accessible now for Android through the Google store and Apple iOS through iTunes.

TSU Chief Information Officer Tim Warren said software that allows students to register will soon be added to the app.

“They do everything on apps nowadays, so it just makes sense,” Warren said. “I think students are really going to like it. It’s very, very convenient.”

The app, developed by leading software company Ellucian and modified by TSU’s Office of Technology Services, currently allows students to check courses, schedules and grades; access myTSU and eLearn; and even unlock accounts and reset passwords.

Other features include interactive maps of the campus and access to Nashville’s bus schedules. There is also a section for all things athletics, and of course, TSU’s social media sites.

While a number of higher education institutions across the country are using similar apps, TSU is among only a handful of state schools that have such a device.

So far, about 800 TSU students have downloaded the app, Warren said.

TSU student David Johnson said he plans to download it and is looking forward to using it to register for classes.

“It’s going to make it a lot easier,” said Johnson, a junior who is majoring in Health Sciences. “It’s pretty convenient.”

Lexes Harper, a 21-year-old Chemistry major, currently uses a browser on her iPhone to access TSU’s website. But she agrees the app is more convenient, and plans to download it – particularly for registration.

“We can go straight to the app,” Harper said. “It saves time.”


Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.