Miriam Reyes won with her project Visual Learners not only the European Youth Award in 2015 but received more than 22 national and international awards from organizations ranging from the European Investment Bank to MIT or Forbes for instance. Books are available in Spanish, English, French, Portuguese and Greek now. Recently Visual Learners started an online academy and a documentary in Spanish. A good reason to ask Miriam to share last year’s success story with you:
How did you get the idea for Visual Learners?
Visual Learners is a tech non-profit organization whose facilitate children with autism and other learning difficulties access to the tools they need to develop their full potential. The project Visual Learners started with a personal experience. Inspiration came after the diagnostic of our little cousin. With him, we quickly discovered that children with autism are « Visual Learners » and need visual support as imagines, photographies or pictograms to learn easily and to work in autonomy. We decided to design specially for him a story with pictograms to learn to go alone to the toilet, «The underpants of Jose ». The story really worked, in only one week, he learned how to use the toilet on his own.
At this time, we decided to share this story in internet with other families… and suddenly thousands of families and professionals from all around the world, started writing us saying, «Thank you, thank you for sharing this material». At that time, we realized the fact, that the creation of digital tools, pictogram learning, visual accessibility as well as social awareness are still today a big challenge! Because of the lack of effective solutions. Because we understood children learn at their own pace, Amelie Mariage and I decided to devote our time and creativity to respond to this this huge social demand. Since the beginning, with the collaboration of experts, educators and families, we are working to develop and democratize the digital tools to do it! What started at home 5 years ago, today has become an international organization!
How it works your project?
Through research, creation of tools, and social awareness, we aim to create truly disruptive and innovative solutions that can empower and have a positive impact in the lives of the children. From the carry on daily routines, fully enjoyment of different aspects of the lives of children and making reference to the elimination of existing barriers in society, Visual Learners is focusing on 3 main actions:
- VISUAL LEARNERS | THE TALES
We have developed 2 collections of tales with pictograms, LEARN and ENJOY. To date 20 e-books and interactive apps with pictograms have been developed. Since laughing in 2012, we have more 1,200,250 views and we generate a positive impact on Spanish, French, English, Portuguese spoken countries. Thanks to the support of Ashoka, the beautiful collaboration we made with Ethelon, our material are also available in Greek!
- VISUAL LEARNERS |THE ACADEMY
We have created, AUDEMY, the online academy of Visual Learners where to learn about autism. Because we know behind the evolution of every child, there is always a involved family and a professional who believes in his capacities, we developed 10 different courses to democratize access to learning for everyone. Currently more than 2600 families and professionals have followed our courses and scored it in 9,2.
- VISUAL LEARNERS | THE MOVIE
“A shared dream” is the title of our documentary. A film in which we tell our story… It’s a narration, a jump into the autism world to raise social awareness through the eyes of children and families whose are walking with autism without being afraid.
For the future… we have a lot of other projects in mind! Indeed, autism has become the most frequently diagnosed development disorder in children. There is around 1 of every 150 children with autism, they are 3 million in U.E and 67 worldwide and statistics show that the numbers are steadily increasing.
In Visual Learners we truly believe that we need all kinds of minds for our future, the minds of people with autism, visual thinking ability will be needed for next challenges that we will address as humanity. Our mission is to ensure that their potential can be fully released.
Can you give us some details about the start-up ecosystem in Spain? Which are the good and the bad thinks there
Visual Learner have been working physically in Spain between Sevilla, Madrid, Barcelona. Last year, we were based in Paris, France. Hand by hand with the SenseCube Incubator and the Scaling Program of the Impact Hub, we focused all our forces on scaling the project internationally. By using technology, we are able to be present almost everywhere and produce a huge social impact worldwide.
Young people who not only led social change, shift status quo but also create a new social equilibrium. They are all emerging than ever before and the last few years have been fantastic… Spain, France, as well as other countries around the world are showing an ecosystem with a big potential to create social change!
Which is the biggest difficulty that you have faced up since now?
Entrepreneurship is a beautiful experience that comes with a host of challenges!
Sometime is a very lonely road. In some point, we all feel overwhelmed with the many responsibilities. Probably, parents and families will have some problem to understand what you are doing with your life!
In our case, we decided to never give up! We took it as part of the process to grow!