A recently-developed app dubbed Making Authentic Friendships (MAF) is enabling people with disabilities to grow their network by helping them find friends in their city.
The app was developed by Juliana Fetherman when she was still in middle school after realized making friends for her brother Michael, who has autism and ADHD was proving to be an arduous task. MAF is an outcome of her attempts to help him in the aforesaid area.
Doctors diagnosed Michael with ADHD early as he was not achieving the milestones in terms of development. To makes things worse, he was diagnosed with autism when he was just 8 years old.
Kids with autism are usually unable to match other children with the same abilities even in special education classes, Fetherman points out. Michael didn't feel he was a fit in that class; however, he was unable to fit with the typical children as well, leaving him alone, she said.
Seeing her younger brother so lonely encouraged the 23-year-old to develop an application that served as a platform for Michael and other kids like him for making new connections and finding friends. Making Authentic Friendships (MAF for short) is Michael's initials.
MAF helps kids with disabilities to initiate conversations. During the registration process, users need to provide their details such as name, age, diagnosis and location. Based on the above-mentioned details and diagnosis, the app then matches people.
While talking to CNN about her younger brother, Fetherman said, "he's verbal, but he doesn't like to talk." Something as normal as making and keeping conversations is quite awkward for Michael, who finds it hard to even initiate conversations, she added.
The app is designed to help youngsters like Michael to start a started. Based on a game-like concept, Making Authentic Friendships offer users coins when they chat with friends. In short, the more they chat, the more coins they earn. These coins can then be redeemed to purchase new outfits for their avatar.
To ensure the safety of the users, Juliana works alongside a team that monitors every chat, and flags users that do anything suspicious. Originally launched back in 2019, the MAF app is currently available for download in more than 35 states, 5 continents, and 12 countries across the globe. A large number of MAF app users are from England.
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