Young Girls Create Free App to Help Special Needs Kids Define Emergencies

A house fire vs. a BBQ fire

Chest pain vs. a toothache

The ability to determine a true emergency is second nature to most of us. However, this may not be an easy task for kids with special needs. In a life or death situation, kids need to be able to handle a potentially dangerous situation in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, very few resources or solutions are currently available to help teach kids to decipher the difference.

Young Girls Create Free App to Help Special Needs Kids Define Emergencies

When looking for a science project topic for the school’s annual Stem Fair, with the theme of “Wonder,” three elementary school girls, Lily Liu, Maggie Liu, and Julia Nigro, from New Jersey New Providence Salt Brook Elementary School decided this was a topic they wanted to explore further.

They learned about this challenge for kids with special needs from principal Mr. Jason Killian and his supportive administration team of Chatham Education, Careers & Lifelong Community (ECLC).  The school has an amazingly long history of helping thousands of kids and adults with special needs to develop essential life skills to thrive in the real world after graduation.

Mr. Killian and his team welcomed took them around the historical school facility to meet friendly teachers and students, shared stories of successes and challenges, and encouraged them to use science and technology to help kids with special needs.

Seeing many ECLC kids carrying an iPad around, Maggie Liu proposed to create a new training APP on iPad to help these kids to distinguish what is a true emergency vs. one that is not.

After a month of brainstorm sessions, several online app training courses, and many late nights of coding and programming, a free iPad training App “Emergency Or Not,” was born. The APP has two parts: a flashcard training section and a quiz section to test knowledge on what is a real emergency.

The girls teamed up with ECLC and conducted real testing with kids in its aftercare. First time testing, they discovered many areas of improvements. After that, the girls added new icons in the APP by learnings from PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), maximized vocalization of the words for hearing impaired.

They also added a slider to let these kids/caregivers choose the right number of random flashcards to be trained on, so they can maintain focus on training and testing.

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In the next testing session with ECLC, the girls were very encouraged by the difference this training APP can make. A girl danced happily to the music of APP. One kid recommended his friend to play this fun “video game” with him.  On child even sneaked in to do the training twice. They also found 90 percent improved the testing scores, and all ECLC kids felt this APP helpful for them to learn what is an emergency.

The IPAD APP can be downloaded for free in the APP store at  This app is currently only available in IPAD format.  The girls plan to upgrade this APP to an iPhone format along with many feedback they collected so far.

The girls would appreciate feedback on the performance of their new APP.  If you have questions and suggestions for further improvements, please reach out to us at

This article was featured in Issue 91 – Great Back-to-School Strategies


    Sherry Liu

    Sherry Liu is currently a finance director with SK Life Science Inc. in Paramus, NJ. She resides in Summit, NJ with her husband Jeffrey and two daughters, Lily Liu and Maggie Liu. When Sherry gets a moment away from her financial world of excel sheets, budgets, and forecasts, she loves running, yoga, writing, and enjoying amazing time with her family.

  • Avatar Brooke Webster says:

    Way to go Girls! You are truly Heros and leaders that we should all be looking up to.
    Thank you 🙂

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