Avakid creates personalized child avatar-based, visual learning tablet (e.g. ipad) / smartphone apps for children. Our apps are particularly helpful for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and other developmental delays, but are good for typically developing children as well. The company was founded by Colin Smith and Ann Power Smith, PhD, the parents of three children: two neurotypical children and one ASD-diagnosed child. The product ideas are inspired by the Smiths’ experience with their children and grounded in Ann’s expertise in the neurobiology of learning and memory.

Before becoming a mother, Ann completed her PhD in neuroscience at UC Irvine, in the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. Her graduate work was focused on examining the contribution of particular brain areas (especially the basolateral amygdala, hippocampus, and neocortex) and neurotransmitters (especially acetylcholine and norepinpehrine) on memory storage, and the influence of stress and stress hormones on memory storage. Her neuroscientific education was broad, ranging from experimental psychology to systems and cellular neurobiology. In her postdoctoral research at the Reeve-Irvine Research Center, also at UC Irvine, she examined the role of activity regulated gene expression in the above brain areas in emotional memory storage as well as the role of protein synthesis in different forms of memory storage. Her research findings are published under her maiden name, Ann E. Power. Colin and Ann now own and operate Write Science Right, a scientific editing, translation, and consulting company that was established in 2001.

Avakid’s first product, the SeeMeGoPotty app, came about based on Colin and Ann’s experience

potty training their children. Their middle child, Grace, had been difficult to potty train owing to her

communication delay, related to her having an ASD. Grace’s mom, Ann, created a custom,

realistic bathroom narrative slide show in PowerPoint® of Grace going to the bathroom:

feeling the need to go pee, walking to the bathroom, pulling down pants, peeing, washing hands, etc.

Grace immediately recognized the cartoon as herself, and enjoyed looking at it over and over.

She readily transferred the process and the vocabulary of the process to potty training in real life

and was finally fully and successfully potty trained within a few weeks. When the Smiths’ youngest

(typically developing) daughter Kyra was ready to potty train, Ann was preparing to adapt Grace’s

potty training slide show for Kyra, and commented on how nice it would have been to have thought

of this when they were potty training their eldest (typically developing) son Aiden, who had been

outright defiant to the process. Moreover, they realized how all potty training parents could appreciate

this teaching tool, and AvaKid was born with the development of the SeeMeGoPotty app.