Galway Family’s Ambition to Change the World Through Their Sons’ Eyes

Valerie and Enda Dodd with their twin sons Conor and Eoin.
May 26 2016 Posted: 11:47 IST

NUI Galway Business and Innovation Centre support a Galway family’s global mission to make their language learning solution accessible for children with autism

Enda and Valerie Dodd’s innovative software solution ‘ALL’, named after their company, Animated Language Learning, is driven by the belief that they can change the world. As clients of the NUI Galway Business Innovation Centre, they are determined to create a state of the art, visually rich language learning program that has already lifted their twin sons’ from the isolation of autism, and make it accessible to every family in need.

Enda and Valerie Dodd originally moved to California in 2003 to find a solution to their sons’ condition. They actively started developing the software on a full time basis in 2009 in San Francisco and established Animated Language Learning Inc. The company relocated to Ireland in 2015 to NUI Galway’s Business and Innovation Centre.

Speaking about the solution, Valerie Dodd said: “There was utter confusion surrounding the diagnosis of our sons’ when it became evident that they were not talking and were diagnosed as highly autistic. Autism spectrum disorder, pervasive development disorder, deafness, language disorder, sensory integration disorder and global dyspraxia were among many terms being used, and we had little understanding of their meaning. We struggled to comprehend these diagnoses and what was truly going on with our sons’. Equally we had to make sense of what therapies were available to help our children succeed with communication. This was our challenge.”

It was this quest that ultimately brought the family to San Francisco, and the collaboration with Disney, Pixar and Adobe e-learning teams. Having given up their jobs, Valerie and Enda focused on creating a solution for the autism that disrupted their sons’ language. In that time the family assembled a team of world-leading specialists and schools who together with the help of Disney led their twin boys out of the isolation of their condition. Today the boys are emerging out of their deficits, enjoying school, sports, relationships and looking forward to a bright new world.

Fiona Neary, NUI Galway business development manager at the Business Innovation Centre said: “Having recently moved back from the US the Dodd family are now surrounding themselves with a solid support structure and network to scale this solution globally. We are delighted to have Enda, Valerie and their team based onsite and look forward to working with them in achieving their global mission.”

Animated Language Learning has already created a learning technology which is currently being piloted with over 200 families around the world. Enda Dodd says: “Language disordered children are very complex and our work with families has been vital in developing our understanding of communication and delivering our sons’ success to families in need. Our aim is to enact social change for our families through language, creating a better future for all of us.”

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