The app is designed to match you with those with special needs based on age, diagnosis, interest, and geographic location.
Juliana Fetherman has watched her brother, who has autism and ADHD, struggle to meet new people and form close bonds. She wanted to do something about it and went about creating an app that helps adults with autism and other special needs make friends easily. The app is named Making Authentic Friendships and Juliana Fetherman has credited her brother Michael as the inspiration. Michael, 22, had been lonely for most of his life. “He doesn’t have the social skills to meet and engage with new people and it’s bothered me for a long time,” said Juliana Fetherman, reported GoodNewsNetwork.
Fetherman, 24, wanted to make life easier for her brother and many others like him. "I am 24-years-old and have a 22-year-old brother with ADHD and Autism. His name is Michael. Making Authentic Friendships (MAF) are also my brother's initials. He inspired this initiative. He is very lonely due to his lack of social skills and ability to make friends. I just recently finished my MBA at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT, and I am passionate about bettering the lives of those with autism and other special needs, and plan to dedicate my entire life to doing so," reads a description on the app's website. The app helps connect adults with special needs to make friends based on age, diagnosis, interest, and geographic location.
Fetherman learned that her brother didn't know how to engage people even if he wanted to bond with them. He struggled with the interpersonal skills necessary to hold a conversation while bonding with new people. She didn't have any previous experience in pioneering a business like this but she wasn't to be deterred. She started with creating a community centered on her idea on Instagram. As the community began to grow, she realized the idea was popular with many families who had a member with special needs. That's how she knew there was a demand for an app that caters to making friends. “Once my product actually came out, I had all these people waiting for it which I think was really important,” said Fetherman, reported Forbes. The app had 100 users within a week of launching. "My son Byron has a hard time making friends. We showed him the MAF app beta and he just lit up. He loves the app a little too much," wrote a glowing endorsement on the MAF website.
The app also generated interest in the media. She was covered on prominent platforms such as ABC, Fox, etc. This helped bring more awareness about such an app which directed more people towards the app. She revealed a moment she came into her own. She was scheduled to speak on a panel among some much senior panelists. “I tell myself all the time, I’m here because I deserve to be here. [I] went out there, did my thing, talked about my business…I told my story [and] I got a standing ovation in the middle of this thing, which is unheard of. We walked off and then one of the panelists [said], ‘you know, we were wrong about you. You’re the one to watch.’” The app now has a growing user base and has been released for Android and iOs and the interactive web app currently serves the special needs community in all 50 states as well as 45 countries and six continents.
One of the positive comments about the app on YouTube read. "Came across your amazing app today and was so impressed with your enthusiasm and genuine giving spirit. All autistic children and young adults just want to be accepted for who they are and friendships are so important. A wonderful idea to connect all of these beautiful people. You are making the world a better place!"