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Building an inclusive learning platform for children with disabilities and special needs

"The Help Me Thrive platform is yet another ambitious project that required a lot of effort from all stakeholders and diverse expertise to become reality. The professionalism and flexibility of the team was key to achieving this."

Maria Yankova, Education Officer, UNICEF Bulgaria



In Bulgaria, for every special education teacher there are over 6 children in need of their help. This means many children don’t get the support they need to develop their full potential. This is especially true in smaller cities, where the ratio of children to teachers is even bigger. This situation was complicated even further by the enforced move to distance learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

UNICEF Bulgaria, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Science and the Regional Centre for Supporting the Process of Inclusive Education, initiated the project ‘Help Me Thrive’ which aims to enable all children and adolescents, including the most disadvantaged, to access education and develop to their full potential in an inclusive and protective society — a task complicated by the enforced move to distance learning during the pandemic.

Our job was to design and deliver the platform which would become a hub to empower learners, educators, parents, and specialists to come together, collaborate, and help children with disabilities and special needs thrive.



Тhe initial project proposal was vast in scope, and it was clear that our 4-week discovery phase would need to deliver a clear set of defined user flows that would enable the scope to be managed, and features prioritised, so the first release could be delivered on time and budget.

To do this, we interviewed over 20 specialists working with families of children with disabilities to get a better understanding of how the current programme works and how it would translate to the new platform.

The next phase of the project was dedicated to creating the design prototypes via wireframes, which we then tested with groups of parents and specialists, including those recommended by UNICEF with varying accessibility needs. We created the user interfaces, based on feedback, to be accessible to those with visual impairments using screen readers, and inclusive to children with disabilities who need high contrast and high colour buttons.

Once the prototype was approved, we entered the main 6–8-month development phase, using simple and flexible application architecture as the base to accommodate some complex functionality such as single sign-on, chat and file sharing.


specialists use the platform


children and parents access learning daily


Launched in September 2021, the Help Me Thrive platform gives children, parents, and specialists full access to a space where:

  • Parents can apply and be approved for a support programme for their child / children
  • Specialists can review a child’s progress and make adjustments to their development programme when necessary
  • Children can navigate through different lessons
  • Users are able to communicate and share files using a messaging tool

Today, Help Me Thrive is used by over 350 teachers, speech pathologists, psychologists, and physical therapists.

More than 2,500 children and their parents across Bulgaria have free access to all resources and learning materials on a daily basis, bringing them one step closer to developing their full potential in an inclusive and protective environment – which is what UNICEF was aiming to do.

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