Amplio wants to level the field for students with special needs

The state of special education in the US leaves a lot to be desired.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 7.3 million students ages 3 to 21 received special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2019-2020. That is 14% of all public school students. US law requires education systems to integrate students with special needs, and billions are spent annually to do this.

Children with special learning needs – speech-language disorders, learning disabilities, autism and more – face personal, social, academic and work-related challenges. For example, children with learning disabilities have a life expectancy that is 16 years shorter than the general population.

Yet the system fails many of those students. Only 65% ​​of special education students finish high school on time, compared to 83% of all students.

That’s where Amplio, a Maryland-based edtech startup that provides a learning platform for special education, comes into play.

Since the launch of the platform in early 2019, tens of thousands of students have been working with Amplio. The Amplio platform combines learning management systems with curricula and programs designed to accelerate student progress and empower educators. It combines evidence-based methodologies with artificial intelligence, natural language processing and big data technologies. (It also supports both face-to-face and distance instruction, ensuring continuity of services for vulnerable students.)

“Amplio’s mission is to help students with special learning needs reach their full potential using the power of technology,” said CEO Yair Shapira. “Our platform is designed to help our most vulnerable students accelerate learning and set them up for success.”

Amplio’s program offerings include courses in K-6 fluency and literacy, K-4 understanding, and K-3 syntax and morphology.

The company recently launched a new speech-language impairment program with structured protocols and learning paths that educators can use or adapt to help students achieve their IEP goals faster. Educators can share ideas and results. Collecting more than 15 million data points also allows the Amplio Learning Platform to learn from educators and continuously adapt based on what works best to help accelerate student learning.

“There are dozens of edtech solutions for the general education population, but these won’t work for students with special learning needs because they require intensive instruction and interventions tailored to their specific needs,” Shapira says. “We also place great emphasis on helping educators increase learning compliance with embedded programs and evidence-based curricula delivered through our special education learning platform, while reducing their indirect workload.”

With approximately 100 employees spread across their offices in Israel and the US, Amplio has made deals with hundreds of school districts and government agencies. In the process, the company has also raised $37 million from growth stock investors. The company also recently announced at the ASU+GSV Summit in San Diego that it was officially offering structured programs and fact-based exercises to help students with speech and language disabilities make faster progress. This new program follows the successful roll-out of the Dyslexia curricula in the first quarter of 2021.

Shapira, who has a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and has served as an executive at several successful startups, the company was inspired by his son, who has a severe stutter. “At the age of two, my son Niv started to stutter,” Shapira says. “He struggled to communicate and often avoided talking.”

It was at a family dinner years later, when a then-teenager Niv became frustrated with his stutter and left the table, that Amplio was born. “My mom turned to my wife, Shirley, and me and said, ‘You’re both biomedical engineers. Can’t you find a way to help Niv stop stuttering?’” Shapira says. “Four days later, I quit my job. and started building a team of experts.”

About thirty million dollars and a company later, Shapira answers his mother’s call to action.

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