July 9, 2014 at 1:00 am

New app designed to help parents navigate autism

Gillman )

I’m an autism parent. I’m also the cofounder of Birdhouse for Autism, a Detroit-based technology startup focused on improving quality of life for other parents and families like ours.

My little girl is on the spectrum, just like 1 in 50 school aged children across the country. If you aren’t a parent to a child with autism, with today’s prevalence you almost certainly know someone who is. What you may not be aware of, however, is the sheer amount of energy required on the part of us parents to provide even the most basic level of care for our kiddos.

From the time my daughter was a year old, she’s been in so many therapies that I’ve learned an entire new alphabet of abbreviations: OT (occupational therapy), PT (physical therapy), ST (speech therapy), ABA (applied behavior analysis), and more. And since, as the saying goes, “if you know one child with autism … you know one child with autism,” there’s just not one treatment or therapy that will work for every child.

Like other families, we just keep trying things until we find something that helps our daughter feel more comfortable in her skin. She is the most fabulous kid, but some days, it’s enough to drive anyone nuts!

We built Birdhouse for Autism to help parents regain control and take charge. Before Birdhouse, we were up to our eyeballs in notes! Tracking what foods she ate (allergies? sensitivities?), how much sleep she got, her bowel movements, when she get her medications and supplements, comments from her therapists and teachers. The notebook grew to a huge binder that nobody could make sense of. And by the way, where did I leave that thing?

The system was broken, and for so many families, it still is. It became clear that the need for organization, control, and better insight into our kids was something we all shared. After all, they can’t tell us what’s bothering them.

Birdhouse addresses that with an iPhone app, an Android app, and a website that helps parents manage their children’s care easier and more efficiently. We launched it last year and watched as thousands of families have signed up across the U.S., and as far away as Australia, Sweden, the UK, and the Middle East.

We have huge plans for Birdhouse, but for the time being, it’s the simplest daily autism journal a parent could hope for. Post new activities about your child’s day, like sleep, meds, moods, food, etc, and scroll through on your phone and computer to see your child’s day to day.

We’ve heard from families who’ve used Birdhouse to get referrals to neurologists from their pediatrician, figure out potty training schedules, identify what’s causing their child’s meltdowns, get their first-grader into a better special education program in school, and test out gluten-free and casein-free diets. So many success stories, and we’re just getting started.

We’re based right in downtown Detroit next to Grand Circus Park, and we’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to reach out to dani@birdhousehq.com, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

You can also download our free iPhone and Android apps, and get started on Birdhouse for free at http://birdhousehq.com.

Dani Gillman is cofounder and director of marketing at Birdhouse for Autism. She’s a hands-on mother to a 9-year-old daughter with ASD and a 5-month-old baby boy.