Already parents to three girls, in 2002, Bill and Lori Binko were expecting their fourth child – a boy. At the 20-week ultrasound, doctors discovered their baby had Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome (HRHS), a rare and complicated congenital condition in which the heart’s right-sided structures are underdeveloped. The couple said, “We chose the name David because we knew he had giants to battle,” including at least three heart surgeries.
David essentially was born without a right ventricle and, therefore, unable to pump blood to his lungs. He underwent immediate intervention to redirect blood flow, and spent much of his first year and beyond in the hospital. Nonetheless, David was a happy little boy with an infectious smile. Sadly, following what was supposed to be his final corrective operation, David suffered surgical complications and passed away at the age of 3 ½. His short life would soon prove to be incredibly impactful not only for his own family, but for thousands of families impacted by special needs.
Lori says that, in addition to the heart condition, David had developmental delays. Coincidentally, her personal and professional experiences overlapped; Lori worked as an elementary-level special education teacher. Frustrated by available resources, she found curriculum support materials for special education to be expensive, hard to use and simply not sufficient for either teachers or parents. “In school, I would make learning games, such as bingo, by hand and draw pictures to supplement curriculum. Soon, other teachers began asking for copies of my materials,” Lori recalls. And interest quickly grew beyond the classroom. “I would teach my families the power of visuals: first-then board, schedules, communication boards, etc.” She believed that “both schools and families needed something better” and, so, Lori and Bill made it happen!
In 2009, the Binkos co-founded LessonPix, Inc. (lessonpix.com), an online tool for educators, therapists and parents to create visual support materials. With a tech background, Bill serves as COO overseeing website operations, social media and marketing. Highly trained with a Masters of Education in Early Childhood Education with a focus on autism, in addition to her artistic abilities, Lori steers the company as CEO. “David is the inspiration and heart of why we do what we do ─ no doubt. Bill and I spent years in and out of the hospital with David, and alternating shifts for 24-hour care while raising our other three children. We know first hand the strains to take care of a child with special needs: in money, time, research, relationships, sleep and heartache,” Lori says.
That’s why LessonPix is designed to be affordable ($36/year) and easy-to-use. “Unlike our competitors, we focus on supporting individual teachers and families of people with special needs, not just districts with budgets to spend,” Lori declares. LessonPix users create customized materials in three steps: 1) Select pictures – choose from a database of 35,000 images (many designed by Lori) or upload personal images; 2) Choose a template– options include picture cards, visual schedules, word wall words, Bingo games, communication boards and many more; 3) Print and use! “Today, schools and families use LessonPix for communication, curriculum, behavior and motor skills. In addition, we have been growing in supporting adults with special needs, English language learners and general education teachers,” Lori shares. Users can also export LessonPix symbols to preferred software tools, like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Smart Notebook. More than 30,000 users now rely on LessonPix!
In addition to LessonPix, the Binkos operate two other companies that also support families impacted by special needs: ATMakers.org, a nonprofit that connects robotic teams and engineers with people who need assistive technologies; and Minor Achievements, a whole-child focused learning center (located in Tarpon Springs, Florida) that implements an integrated approach to language, social skills and movement.