Expert IEP Earns First Prize in 2021 PLASMA Demo Day
On April 29, 2021, the Student Startup Center awarded Expert IEP founder Antoinette Banks 1st Prize in the 2021 PLASMA Demo Day contest. Demo Day is the culmination of PLASMA, a 12-week bootcamp for early-stage companies with UC Davis undergraduate founders. Each year, ten venture teams are chosen to receive intensive mentorship, business education, and networking opportunities in the PLASMA accelerator program.
Antoinette -- McNair Scholar, cognitive science major, researcher in the Cognition in Context laboratory, author of “Better than a Diagnosis: A Single Parent’s Guide to Autism” and first-year transfer student from Los Angeles City College -- founded Expert IEP as the next step in her vision to bring dignity to the special needs community by impacting its future legacy. The problems faced by children with special needs are very personal for Antoinette. When Antoinette’s daughter was five, she was diagnosed on the severe side of the autism spectrum. Antoinette put her life on hold to commit eight years to the necessary developmental support missing from the school systems.
While special education students are required to receive a lawful implementation of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), a resource designed to guide the parents and up to 15 providers on a support team, Antoinette quickly became overwhelmed because the IEP process was broken. Antoinette found herself creating her own spreadsheets and databases to set her daughter’s goals and track her progress. The results: her daughter is no longer on the severe side of the spectrum, but is high-functioning and has shattered all doctors’ expectations.
Antoinette is updating her system’s technology with artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics and making it available to children everywhere through her Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company Expert IEP. With Expert IEP, “students are incentivized to complete their academic, therapeutic and behavioral goals, parents can view real-time progress and educators can collaborate with the entire IEP team to offer customized learning by relying on predictive AI.” Expert IEP’s customers are schools and research institutions; the company already has ten families and three schools scheduled to pilot the program once initial development is complete.
“Before PLASMA, I was a mother and a professional on fire by an idea, wondering if I could somehow bring the success of my personal journey into the lives of families around the world. PLASMA helped me to finetune my thoughts, exposed me to a network of mentors that believed in the vision and now I am more poised to tackle this issue of special education head on. I am also thrilled to share I am a finalist in the Big Bang! Business Competition.” Antoinette continues to welcome parental involvement in her focus group, and in eight months she will begin raising money towards the expansion of her business.
Antoinette is part of a large community of parents of children with special needs: more than 8 million students receive special education services annually. As a published author and social media personality, Antoinette is already a source of inspiration and information to parents of children with special needs. Expert IEP is the next step in supporting this community.