A much-loved little boy with autism who died aged just five years old has become the inspiration for a special app to help other children.
Liam McArdle from Louth village gave his teacher Lisa Marie Clinton the idea for an app that gives more independence to disabled children and adults, operating like a virtual personal assistant.
Liam’s mum Eileen, 41, explained: “Liam was born in November 2009 and I would have noticed that he wouldn’t have been developing at the same rate as other children.
“He was diagnosed with autism at the age of two and a half and he met Lisa when he was three and a half.
“Lisa was a home tutor in ABA so she came to us at home. Lisa was really good with Liam as he wasn’t verbal at the time so she helped him to learn visually and showed us how to work with that too.”
“Liam would have used a special app on his iPad for communication but Lisa really opened our eyes to different ways Liam could learn.”
Lisa said she saw how much Liam enjoyed using his iPad so she developed an app that would replace her traditional and time-consuming laminated cards.
She said: “I wanted to create something that would ensure lifelong learning and would reduce the user’s reliance on other people. I wanted to create a portable and discreet system that delivers smart prompts based on the person’s ability.”
Eileen said: “Lisa introduced picture schedules so Liam realised what was going on in the world. For example if he had a task to do – if we wanted him to do something simple like brush his teeth, Lisa would put that into picture form so he would understand it better and where it came in the schedule. “And she used that concept then to develop the app to increase independence for other children with disabilities.”
Sadly little Liam died from a childhood cancer before the app was finished.
Eileen said: “Liam left us in June 2015 when he was just five and a half. He developed a rare type of brain cancer, a tumour called DIPG. He was only sick for a short period of time because it was an aggressive form of tumour and there was nothing that could be done. Liam passed away just seven weeks after his diagnosis.
“A few months after that we set up the Friends Of Liam Foundation to help people that helped us. We got a lot of help when Liam was sick from LauraLynn and Bumbleance who don’t get any Government help.
“We set it up really in Liam’s memory to help other parents whose children have either special needs or childhood cancer.”
But Eileen said the app is a wonderful legacy to the memory of her very special little boy who Lisa Marie loved dearly.
Eileen said: “The app is a fantastic legacy for Liam as it will help give other children and adults with disability more independence. When Lisa came up with the idea I thought it would be so good for Liam and it is poignant that he is remembered in this way.”
Lisa Marie is also involved in the Friends Of Liam Foundation and says the little boy was her inspiration to keep going.
She revealed: “I was determined not to let fear hold me back so, with a picture of Liam with me always, I continued on my mission, which is to get avail into the hands of children and adults with special needs so they can reach their goals and be as independent as possible.
“Liam has enriched and impacted my life more than I could ever imagine and, as a result, he is helping so many other children and adults.”