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Junior Steve Wei­deman helped Shihab from Bangladesh tran­sition to life in the United States. Steve Wei­deman | Courtesy

When junior Steve Wei­deman noticed a family friend with autism strug­gling to find care during quar­antine, he decided to create an app called Unique Care Connect that would help autistic indi­viduals every­where connect with local care providers. 

Growing up, he said, his best friend’s brother Chris had severe intel­lectual dis­abil­ities. Spending time with Chris inspired Wei­deman to vol­unteer with various special needs pro­grams at his local school.

“I didn’t even realize he was autistic until fourth or fifth grade and people started treating him dif­fer­ently,” Wei­deman said. “They’ve been pretty much my second family.”

Through his involvement with autistic indi­viduals, Wei­deman said he learned the state of Michigan pays up to 20 hours of respite care per week per indi­vidual. He said many fam­ilies struggle to coor­dinate with state-approved caregivers. 

“Espe­cially with pro­foundly autistic indi­viduals, they have certain behaviors or con­di­tions that people see on paper and say, ‘Oh, I’m okay with that,’ but once they get there, will freak a lot of people out,” Weidman said. “You have this issue where they come in, stay for an hour, and then they’re gone. What are you gonna do? It’s not like you’re paying for it, so your recourse is very limited.” 

Wei­deman said he hopes his app will make the process of con­necting fam­ilies to care­givers and medical pro­fes­sionals easier.

“The thing that helps autistic people develop social skills is having con­stant indi­viduals in their lives,” Wei­deman said. “It’s hard when you have care­takers like a rotating door.”

Unique Care Connect is similar to other apps used to connect indi­viduals with care­givers, such as babysitters or geri­atric nurses. Wei­deman said his app pro­vides ser­vices only for indi­viduals with intel­lectual dis­abil­ities, which are usually not a target group on most care sites.

“Our mission is to provide quality resources to the people that need them,” Wei­deman said.

Junior Becca Briskey, Weideman’s girl­friend, said his idea to create the app tes­tifies to his devotion to austistic individuals.

“He loves to take care of people,” Briskey said. “Espe­cially seeing him interact with Chris and how he loves him with all his heart, it doesn’t really sur­prise me that he would want to do some­thing like this.”

Wei­deman said another inspi­ration of his was a student named Shihab from Bangladesh with intel­lectual dis­abil­ities. Wei­deman said he learned a bit of Bengali to com­mu­nicate with Shihab and help him tran­sition to life in the United States.

“Helping autistic kids has always been my passion,” Wei­deman said. “This app gives me a bit of freedom to do what I want and not be so con­stricted. It lets me feel like I’m using my full potential.”

After its pro­jected release in late July to early August, the app will be free for everyone, aside from medical pro­fes­sionals who will be charged $5 for adver­tising fees. In order for the app to be free, Wei­deman said, he will rely on dona­tions from special edu­cation com­mu­nities everywhere. 

“I want this app to be nationwide. I want to help as many people as we can help,” Wei­deman said. “All I need is the contact infor­mation of the special edu­cation department or a special edu­cation teacher from peoples’ hometowns.”

Wei­deman said although the app hasn’t been released yet, he believes the work he’s doing has the potential to impact many families.

“As soon as this app gets going, I’ll start seeing fam­ilies actually ben­e­fiting from it and I can only imagine what that’s going to feel like,” Wei­deman said. 

Briskey said she has loved watching Wei­deman grow in his pursuit of devel­oping the app.

“It’s been really rewarding because I have my own goals that I feel are so unat­tainable,” Briskey said. “But seeing him do some­thing like this, starting from scratch, has been really inspiring. I haven’t seen anyone do that. It’s the kind of thing you hear about in movies.”