At first glance High School student Johnny Ciocca seems to be your average US teenager. The good-looking heartthrob loves hanging out with his friends, spending quality time with his brother and is into computers. But unlike most other High School students Johnny has already launched 35 apps and is now making headlines with his fairly new apps that cater to people with special needs. If you already feel like a low-achiever right now, wait until you read this: Johnny is only 17 years old.
The High School student from Estero, Florida taught himself how to develop apps and has been doing so for a couple of years now. Recently he had enough of developing retro arcade games and apps that help people to stay on schedule. Johnny wanted to create something far more meaningful that would help his older brother Christian, who suffers from Down syndrome. Christian used to have a big social circle thanks to an organization called Fantastic Friends which pairs teens and young adults who have special needs with volunteers of the same age and interests. When the entire family left their home in New Jersey and moved to Southwest Florida they soon had to realize that finding friends would be a lot more difficult for Christian. The boys’ father says: ”We realized there wasn’t a place to find stuff for Christian, like activities.“ That’s why the family launched their own Fantastic Friends chapter back in November and Johnny started to work on apps that would make his brother’s life even easier.
So far the most successful of these apps is one called MyVoice – Tap or Type to Talk which allows non-verbal people to communicate with others through a Picture Exchange Communication
System. This app will actually speak for a person and give him a real voice. This particular app has been downloaded 150 times. But Johnny also ”wanted to create a way for (Christian) to meet new people.“ That’s why he launched a brand-new social network called youBelong two weeks ago. This network allows people with special needs and their families to connect with each other and 18-year-old Christian has been loving this app so far!
Even though he is still dedicated to developing other apps that cater to people with special needs, Johnny has to focus on his college applications right now. Would you like to have a guess at his favoured subject? Yes, Johnny wants to study computer science and we are sure that he will do great!