Connecting caregivers for special needs children

Pletly’s innovative “complete app” now available in US market


Photo courtesy of Pletly
Pletly, which means “complete,” is an online app that factiltates communication between  caregivers for special needs children to both monitor and facilitate their progress. The company now has a base in Philadelphia, where local NorCham President Frode Kjersem is COO of the company.

Michael Kleiner
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

The history of Pletly, a Norwegian company “making an impact through innovation and technology,” is a poignant one.

In 2010, Jeanine Elisabeth Jørgensen met this nice guy, Marius Mathisen, online. She didn’t want to risk an emotional investment if Marius didn’t accept her “secret.”

“I have a 6-year-old daughter with  intelletual and cognitive disabilities, ”  she wrote.

“I had to tell him early on,” she says in a documentary from their home in Tjome, Norway. “It’s pretty scary because you don’t want the rejection. You like the guy. I couldn’t waste time, fall in love, and get emotional if he doesn’t want my life. He wrote a long letter back. I was reassured he still wanted to talk to me.”

“It was never in my mind to say see ya” said Marius.

Jeanine’s daughter is diagnosed as “moderately mentally impaired” and is nonverbal. She uses simplified sign language to communicate. She had never said “Mom.”

Marius researched about the condition and diagnoses. At their first meeting, he brought a toy car as a gift. They connected playing with it and she made an effort to communicate with Marius. After subsequent visits, it didn’t take long for Marius to understand the signs and sounds.

His initiation was when he had to feed her. “It was scary because at the time she was prone to choking on her food,” he said. “I was nervous making sure she wouldn’t die the first time I was responsible for her. The first time we were alone in a store I wondered how people were viewing us. It wasn’t long before she charmed me.”

Jeanine and Marius married. Now, each one’s package became one in a blended family.

“I had a son from a previous relationship,” said Marius. “So I came into this with my own package. Every package in every situation is unique. If you’re entering into the relationship with somebody who already has history and a child, you have to accept everything that comes with it, regardless of what it is.”

Professionally, Marius worked in information technology and management, information systems, and software engineering. He thought there had to be some assistive technology out there for special needs people.

Their daughter had a touchsscreen desktop computer, but it wasn’t interactive, and a flip book that she never read.

“She wasn’t using the touchscreen computer because it was too difficult for her and for us at home,” said Jeanine. “The teachers also thought it was a struggle so they didn’t use it as much as they should have.”

A clue came when Marius brought home the first-generation iPad. Like many children, their daughter adapted to the interactivity quickly. Marius, mostly, used the iPad to build up their daughter’s sounds to form more words and her fine motor skills. At 8, she finally said, “Mom.”

“She could sit for hours on the iPad not even registering us,” said Jeanine.

Marius also has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), so how did his disability impact his commitment?

“I think the consequences of being a little different than others but not being helped to the extent that people might believe, has given me sympathy, empathy or understanding of their vulnerability, especially children,” he said. “l wanted to protect her and fix the situation for her. The model ADHD brain was telling me, ‘I want to figure things out. I want to understand more things and try to fix this.’ It’s not being afraid of taking a risk. The thing with ADHD is we are not risk-aversive.”

As they watched their daughter intuitively drag puzzle pieces together on the iPad, they realized  untapped potential.

“She had a level of understanding of the jigsaw puzzle we never knew she had,” said Marius.

“With the use of  technology we understood how much more lived inside our daughter”—which meant it existed in other special needs children and adults.

They found special needs apps “downright useless” and not interconnected with caregivers.

In 2012. Marius created an app specific for their daughter, which gained international and Norwegian media attention. That enabled them to raise money to buy iPads and Apple gift cards for their daughter’s school for intellectual and developmental disabilities, allowing the school to start using assisttive technology.

Another wrong that needed righting was lack of communication among caregivers and families. A binder might be updated every three months. The Mathisens  knew that “children with intellectual disability are almost four times more likely to experience neglect compared to other children; 40% to 70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression, suffer from burnout, and the turnover rate for professional caregivers in the industry is twice as high as in other comparable occupations.”

Tired of waiting for someone else to create the right app, in 2021, they decided to do it themselves. The app, Pletly Pal, is similar to a social media platform. A profile of the individual is created with their likes and dislike—movies, food, music—how they best communicate and whether they have trouble eating or need assistance going to the bathroom.

There are categories such as My Exercises, Eating, My Signs, My Family. Caregivers can post progress reports in a feed: what a child did well, their mood so families know what to be aware of when the child comes home. Parents can post about home life. Siblings and grandparents can use the app. Parents can have peace of mind when leaving the chid in somebody else’s care. It’s a free download from the Apple and Google Play stores.

The Pletly name means complete.

“So many aspects of care is just focused on keeping them alive,” said Marius. “That’s super important of course. Pletly Pal is about involving the circle of care. Everybody can be involved: grandparents, occupational doctors, speech therapists, special education teachers, social workers, direct support staff, group homes, everybody. So, making the care circle complete.” It takes a village.

“That’s the point,” said Marius.

In the United States, Pletly is based in Philadelphia. NorCham Philadelphia President Frode Kjersem is COO of Pletly. In 2021, a member connected them with Bancroft, a highly reputable organization dedicated to children and adults with intellectal disabilities. They are a partner, their first agreement with a Norwegian health-care company.

In 2022, another member arranged a meeting with then Philadelphia City Council member Derek Green, whose son is autistic and the Greens are active in autistic causes. On Aptil 6, Pletly sponsored the Autism Fathers Conference in Philly.

During the pandemic, the Mathisens debated whether to remodel the bathroom, which looked like it was from 1976, in their new house, or develop an app. The bathroom still looks like 1976.

“We would regret it if we didn’t (develop the app),” said Jeanine. “If we did the renovation and everything was perfect in our house, we still had the problem that we are facing. It would still be difficult to communicate with schools and everything around our daughter. I think it was the right time.”

In the process, they changed the lives of special needs families and caregivers around the world.

Visit to learn more.

This article originally appeared in the May 2024 issue ofThe Norwegian American.

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Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of NorCham Philadelphia. Visit;