I have always had a schedule- and routine-driven personality. Then, my son came along, and I realized that where I enjoyed a schedule, he required one. It is not uncommon for children on the autism spectrum to not only find comfort in routines but also as a way to help cope with a chaotic world. Stepping Stones — Daily Routines offers a simple interface to create schedules specifically for your child.
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When I first heard about the Stepping Stones — Daily Routines app, I was extremely interested in trying it out. My first impression was that I love the simplicity and ease of use. It comes populated with two schedules, or "paths," as they are referred to in the app. These paths are simple instructions to get you started. What better way to show how it works than to actually use the app to create a demonstration?
I flipped through the samples to learn what to do and was ready to go. Creating a new path is super easy. The create and edit buttons are hidden until you double-finger-swipe to the right. Press the "+" button to begin a new path. Write a title, add times and days it is applicable (for sorting purposes), then start adding steps.
I created a bedtime routine for my son in less than 10 minutes — this includes the time it took to run around the house taking pictures. I loved that I had the freedom to be as specific or as general as I wanted. My son has brushing his teeth down so I can have one step which says, "Brush your teeth" with a picture of his tooth brush and he's good. However, he needs two stuffed animals, socks on his feet, and a specific blanket before we read books. I can make each of these a step instead of just a general, "Get into bed."
My favorite feature is that the app is completely customizable. You write the name of the path, label each step and can add a picture and/or sound to each step.
The speech pathologist at my son's school runs into the problem all the time of not being able to find an applicable icon or picture for student's visual schedules. Many of the younger kids are not able to read, and may not associate the picture she finds with that step. With Stepping Stones, the caregiver can quickly snap a picture of what will work best for the child or record audio to explain.
Also, by writing your own captions, you can use verbiage your child knows and understands. When creating my son's bedtime routine, I made one step about getting his two favorite stuffed animals and added a picture of them. He will not sleep without these two toys. If a babysitter puts him to sleep, now they know exactly what Snuggle Monkey looks like and to have him in bed before starting books. Our babysitter loves that she can pull up my son's schedules on Stepping Stones instead of reading three pages of my notes and being afraid of missing a step and causing a meltdown.
There are so many more uses for this app other than creating a visual schedule. When I was reading the description, I saw they recommended using this to create social stories. There are plenty of social stories out there, but to be able to easily create one tailored to fit specific needs is wonderful. I also created one to help label where things belong in the house — this has come in handy when it is time to clean up.
One possible improvement I would like to see is for the app to allow me to insert steps into an already existing path. When I created the bedtime routine, I realized I forgot to add, "Put on pajamas." This would be step 2, so I had to delete steps 2-5 that I already created, add a pajama step and recreate the steps I deleted. I already had the pictures, so recreating the steps was faster the second time, although a little frustrating.
Stepping Stones could also benefit from a share function. We have an iPad at the house that we can leave for the baby-sitter. However, if his routines were on my phone, I would like to be able to share them with other caregivers.
Overall, this is an extremely useful app. After creating and using one path for a day, my son asked for more. I got him involved in making the different paths and pointing out what pictures would be good reminders for him. Even my 7 year old, non-Aspergers daughter asked if she could make some schedules for herself.