Dan and Carey Tedesco started HandHold Adaptive, LLC
, in August 2008 with Rob Tedesco, Dan's brother, and James Jorasch, a family friend.
"HandHold Adaptive broadly aims to bridge the digital divide we believe exists between modern handheld technology and the special needs world," the Tedescos explain. "We adapt mass market portable devices, like iPhones, iPods, and Blackberry phones, to serve those with special needs and their caregivers. We have a suite of applications in our development pipeline, starting with iPrompts, which is a picture-based communication tool for the iPhone and iPod Touch." iPrompts allows parents to put customized picture schedules, social stories, timers, and choice prompts on those popular electronic devices.
Dan and Carey's 4-year-old son, Evan, was diagnosed with autism at 19 months. "Evan's diagnosis at first scared and confused us," they recall. "While it still presents daily challenges and long-term concerns, we channel this energy into helping him get the interventions and tools he needs to succeed. We founded HandHold Adaptive to help create tools for people like Evan and families like us." They found that "the communication aids on the market are expensive, cumbersome, confusing and stigmatizing," and looked to everyday communication tools for a solution.
To get HandHold Adaptive going, the Tedescos "wrote a simple business plan and raised some capital to help us develop and test iPrompts while we filed half a dozen patents covering both iPrompts and the other applications we're developing."
Though the business is not yet a full-time job for the couple -- Dan works as a corporate attorney, Carey as a graphic designer -- they consider it to be a success already. "We've received emails from people all over the country who love iPrompts and find it useful. If we quit today, it'd have been a huge success. But we have big goals and intend to make this our life's work."
Pros and Cons:
The best thing about their business, the Tedescos say, is "the hopefulness we feel every day when we take our experience in special needs and work towards a broad revolution in assistive technology." The hardest thing? "Managing day jobs while also being parents." That includes the work they're doing with Evan, who "is responding very well to the comprehensive, interdisciplinary interventions we have put in place and continue to refine on a daily basis. He is cute, charming and funny, and keeps us laughing through the challenging times. He loves iPrompts and often demands the structure it provides him."
According to the Tedescos, "Other applications in development include voice output programs, video games for children with autism, data tracking tools, and programs that would let parents communicate with their special needs kids much like an OnStar system for cars."
Business and Personal Advice:
To other parents considering starting a business, the Tedescos suggest, "Be persistent and positive, both at home with your special needs children and with your business endeavors." On the topic of raising a child with special needs, they advise, "Stay positive, put one foot in front of the other, and cherish every little moment of connection and progress you can make with your child. Also, be proud of yourself and be honored that you've been entrusted with the care of someone special."