As a speech/language therapist in a school district, I work with a huge variety of students. Each student has a different disability, and no two kids are the same. This is something I’m sure many of you can relate with! As many of you know, money is also a concern, not only in the schools, but everywhere we turn. As such, I always try to find apps that are flexible, so I can use them for more than one goal, and cost effective. If I feel an app is expensive, then I try my best to make sure it is worth the money. In other words, I try to think outside of the box in figuring out how I can use this app in more than one way. While many apps exist for social skills, so often they address only one or a just few specific areas. This is my list of apps that I feel can be used in so many different ways! Here are just a few apps to get you started, in no particular order.
Feel Electric! (iPad/iPhone, FREE). Feel Electric from Sesame Street is a wonderful free app that addresses identifying and expressing emotions. To begin, the child is asked to identify how he is feeling today. The best part is that it defines what each emotion is, just by clicking on the word. The child is then able to choose different games or activities to identify others’ emotions through facial expressions or exploring and learning more about their own emotions. This is definitely an app that you cannot pass up for FREE! Targeted Skills Addressed: Identifying/expressing emotions, identifying body language.
ConversationBuilderDeluxe (iPad only, $19.99). This app from Mobile Education Store, which Ron reviewed and gave five stars, is designed to facilitate/imitate a turn-taking conversation. The pictures in this app are nice, but the voices are superb, making the turn-taking conversation feel more real. The child is shown a picture, given three choices, and asked how he would start the conversation. If the wrong choice is selected, the app prompts him to choose again. If the correct answer is chosen, the child is prompted to record the comment which will be compiled for a portion of a conversation at the end. Targeted Skills Addressed: Turn taking, topic maintenance, answering questions appropriately.
PuppetPals HD Director’s Pass (iPad only, $2.99) and Puppet Pals 2: All Access (iPad/iPhone, $4.99). These two apps from Polished Play LLC are equally amazing, and hands down, two of my favorite apps. PuppetPals HD: Director’s Pass allows a child (or you) to create a story featuring customized backgrounds and characters (i.e. photos of you). Simply pick out the character and backgrounds of your choosing, and press record. You can move the characters around, creating a movie to share. It is a great app for storytelling, sequencing, and creating quick social stories.
Puppet Pals 2: All Access also allows you to create a movie featuring a variety of characters, and can also be customized to include yourself. The characters in this app are more interactive, allowing the mouth, hands, and legs to talk, walk, and move. Used with iMovie, the movies created can quickly be edited together to create a longer sequential story or a great fast social story. Target Skills Addressed: Both apps are great for creating quick video social stories, but can also address imagination, absurdities, role playing, sequential storytelling, code switching, joint attention, and topic maintenance.
Full version: Free version:
iMovie (iPad/iPhone, $4.99). Apple's own iMovie is full of possibilities, and I am ashamed to admit I’ve had it for nearly a year, and have still not explored all of the options! This app can be as easy or as complicated as you choose to make it (I usually choose easy). Videos can quickly be captured or imported from your camera roll to edit and/or combine with other videos. My favorite use of this app is in conjunction with Puppet Pals 2: All Access. I was able to create a quick social video about standing in line with one of my students in approximately 10 minutes (but even that was only because I had to update my app), simply by adding two videos from my camera roll. My student thought it was the greatest thing in the world, and it got the point across. Target Skills Addressed: Can be used to show appropriate or targeted behaviors, also addresses problem solving if the student is creating/editing the video
Keynote (iPad/iPhone, $9.99). Again, this app by Apple can be as complicated or as easy as you choose to make it. I use this app to quickly create social stories for my higher functioning/ strong reader students. This app creates a slideshow presentation, in which you can add pictures, videos, graphs, or just type information into. Presentations can easily be shared through email or copied into iTunes. Target Skills Addressed: Social stories to show appropriate or targeted behaviors
Bag Game (iPad/iPhone, $1.99). Many of my students struggle with asking questions to gain information. Often, they will only answer questions if asked, and will not reciprocate. This game from all4mychild is a great way to begin teaching children this skill! An object is selected and hidden in a “bag.” The players then need to ask questions to try to narrow it down. It is also a great way to discuss categories and listening skills.
Target Skills Addressed: Asking questions to gain information, listening skills, joint attention, categories
Cut the Rope ($2.99 iPhone/$4.99 iPad). I use this app from Chillingo for problem solving. The goal of this game is to collect as many stars as you can and feed the monster a piece of candy, all without dropping the candy. Each level brings a new challenge with different solutions, making for a perfect way to discuss multiple solutions for a problem. Unfortunately, it is also addicting to play. Target Skills Addressed: Problem solving.
iPhone version: HD version for iPad:
iPhone free: HD for iPad free:
What Are They Asking? (iPad/iPhone, $3.99). This app from Super Duper Publications is nice to use to begin teaching perspective thinking, and can also be used as a conversational starter. In this app, a picture is shown with a word bubble, and a verbal prompt if desired (“What are they asking?”). The pictures show normal situations, so there can be more discussion as to the why and a how something is happening. Targeted Skills Addressed: Answering questions, perspective thinking, conversational starters, turn taking, imagination, emotions.
What does Miss Bee See? (iPad/iPhone, $3.99). What does Miss Bee See is a quirky app from Super Duper Publications. In addition to working on vocabulary and listening skills, the child may need to explain some of the strange things Miss Bee may be seeing or experiencing. My favorite are the pictures that are jammed packed with images, because it allows for much more conversation and discussion. Not only can you discuss what Miss Bee sees, you can also discuss how Miss Bee is feeling through her facial expressions. Targeted Skills Addressed: Emotions, perspective thinking, vocabulary, active listening, joint attention.
First Then (iPhone only, $9.99). If you have a child who struggles with transitioning from activity to activity, thrives with structure and knowing what to expect, or is just working on cause and effect, this is a good place to start. This app helps create a visual schedule for your child, so they can learn to understand what will happen next, sequence steps in a given activity, or learn what is expected in a given routine. The best part is that it is fully customizable, which is especially important if the child has a hard time generalizing. Targeted Skills Addressed: Sequencing, expected behaviors, learning routines, answering questions.
UPDATE: Good Karma Applications has released a new app called FTVS HD – First Then Visual Schedule HD ($14.99 iPhone, iPad). I have not tried this app out, but according to the developers, it combines the First Then boards, Visual schedules, task analysis, social stories, choice boards, and visual models.
First Then for iPhone: FTVS HD:
Jenga HD (iPad/iPhone, 99 cents). “Can we play a game today?” This is a question I hear about every half hour (or each time a different student comes into my room). The Jenga app from Natural Motion is easy to travel with, and not nearly as time consuming to stack back up. Much like the real game, the point is to try to build the tower up as high as possible. Target Skills Addressed: I think Jenga encourages group participation. I also use this to target turn taking, asking questions, problem solving, joint attention (pretty much any goal area).
Open Ended Articulation (iPad/iPhone, $2.99). Yes, you read that right, an articulation app to address social language. This whole post is about using apps to think outside the box, but many of my students are very concrete thinkers and struggle with that concept. Open Ended Articulation from Erik X. Raj is composed of more than 550 wacky questions (e.g. If I washed my hair with beeswax, I would . . .). It encourages creative thinking as well as imagination. Target Skills Addressed: Creative thinking, imagination, answering questions, topic maintenance.
So that completes my list of top ten apps to use for strengthening social skills. As I said before, I certainly try to think outside of the box when using apps, and I hope this list will help you do the same!
Jenni is ready for summer vacation to start!