Emergency Chat App
Jeroen De Busser, an autistic adult, made this app to help other people like him who went non-verbal during meltdowns or during periods of extreme anxiety.
The app itself has a very basic premise, which makes sense because otherwise how would you access it mid-meltdown. When the app is opened you will see the screen on the left of the above screenshot – the idea being that you will then hand your phone to a stranger to read. This screen can be customised to the individual so you can explain any specific medical needs such as asthma or general personal needs and preferences.
After pressing continue the next screen – similar to the regular texting system on most phones. From there the user and the stranger can have a back and forth text conversation with the aim of helping the user to have their specific needs met.
There are limited settings – you can change the header and text on the first page as well as the size of the text, and you can switch between the messaging system automatically alternating between user and stranger or manually.
When this app came out, there were a lot of posts about it on social media pages for autistic people. Some people hailed it as the answer to all their meltdown and non-verbal problems. It’s alright and it fills a purpose, but honestly there are a very limited number of people who could make use of it, and really the most useful part is the text explaining your condition – especially useful I should imagine for things like asthma attacks and for those with diabetes, especially to add emergency contact information.
I wouldn’t be able to use this mid-meltdown. When I have a meltdown, I wouldn’t be able to focus enough to type, I wouldn’t be able to control my fine motor skills enough to get my point across even if I could focus. I probably wouldn’t even think to take my phone out of my pocket, let alone open up an app. In fact, I would argue that if you are able to do that during a meltdown…it might not be a meltdown. It may be the recovery period afterwards, or it may be an impending meltdown or shutdown, but certainly not mid-meltdown.
To use this app effectively you need to be able to use your phone when you’re in a state of enormous anxiety, you need to be able to type on standard small keys on your phone, and you also need to entrust your phone to a complete stranger and hope that they won’t run off with it.
None of this is meant to belittle the app in any way. I imagine it is certainly useful for people with Selective Mutism, or who have had an operation on their throat which limits their speech – or similar conditions. If it works for you then that’s great. It’s just not this ground-breaking app that some parts of the internet made it out to be. It’s free though so it doesn’t hurt at all to download it and see if it’s for you.