Thursday, November 21, 2013

Put down the turkey..10 best social story apps + tips to help you get through Thanksgiving!

Are you living in fear of what kinds of things might happen at the airport on the busiest travel day of the year or losing sleep over the big family gathering that may send your child and you over the edge? Well pull out your iPad and load up your holiday survival kit! Social stories, timers and visual schedules are going to be your new best friends!

My favorite social story apps and some tools to help kids know what is coming next!

1. Keynote  Yes...I hear you saying I can make a story with a slideshow app? It is my favorite way to make a social story quickly. Each slide becomes a page and they are easy to share.

(Free with new operating system as long you have upgraded/$10, iPad/iPhone)

2. Book Creator   I LOVE the voice record feature and so will your kids! You can use your own pics, video and even animated drawings you make in Doodlecast. If you choose to voice record, you need to know it will be harder to share and print the story you make. See a review from Heather H. here!

($4.99, iPad Only)

3. Kid In Story Maker  Kids love seeing themselves in the story and taking pictures to make fun backgrounds. 

($6.99, iPad Only)

4. Choiceworks  This is my favorite app of all time. You can make awesome visual schedules in this app and the feeling board is wonderful. The waiting board will allow you to fight speak with your MIL about the best way to cook the turkey, and the social story books that come with the app are well written. Get this app and start getting through routines with a smile. Kids love sliding the task to the "Done" side and hearing "All Done!" with a big checkmark.

($6.99, iPad/iPhone)

5. Pictello  This is a pricey app, but if you are a therapist that needs to stay HIPPA compliant then Pictello may be the app for you. To share the social stories you create, the person that receives it must own the app and will be sent a code to access it. Very easy app to use and the voice record feature is fantastic.

($18.99, iPad/iPhone)

6. Scribblepress  The artist in me LOVES this app! Kids can pick from a huge amount of different colored and sized markers to draw or write a story. You can add your own photos also. Kids can even add it to the store where others can purchase and read your story! Offers several $0.99 in app storymaking add-on purchases.

($3.99, iPad Only)

7. ComicLife  Are you feeling like a superhero for not burning down the house while cooking Thanksgiving dinner? Or maybe you want to add a "Kaboom!" to your Thanksgiving social story? This is the app for making social stories with kids that love comics and might want to summarize their Thanksgiving adventures. I love using this app at the end of a therapy session with a child or group. Take pictures throughout the day or during an activity to help kids sequence through events. Kids love to print these out and share their story!

($4.99, iPad/iPhone)

8. Timer + Touch HD  Don't want to ruin the pumpkin pie and you need a nap? Use this timer for you and your kids to take a Thanksgiving time out or sensory break! This app is always on the top of my app toolbox. Touch enabling allows kids learn how to use this app easily. Kids love that the timer goes green when they have minute to go (great helper for cleanup time)! Adults love that the timer keeps going even when you are using other apps or are ignoring your idevices!

($1.99, iPad/iPhone)

9. StoryMaker for Social Stories  This is an expensive app! Professionals and parents that are making lots of social stories may feel it is worth the price because it comes loaded with social stories that you can easily edit, a large photo library, and text options.

($39.99, iPad/iPhone)

10. iMovie   Looking to teach the kids some table manners to impress your MIL with? What is more fun than making a family movie! Hand over your idevice to your kids and let them teach you the story of Thanksgiving or model good table manners, so they can practice for the big family dinner. Kids love seeing themselves in movies that we make. Developing a storyline and being creative are wonderful opportunities to work on sequencing, executive functioning skills and imaginative play!

($4.99, iPad/iPhone)

Tips for making a social story to help prep your child for a big event

• Social Stories answer the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY and HOW (will I be feeling) questions.

• Keep the language simple.

• Have the story follow the sequence of events and use emotional language to help model the language you want a child to use to express how he/she may be feeling.

• Don't forget your pictures. Google Images is great for finding pictures. Keep pictures simple.

• Allow your child to read a social story many times and a few days ahead of the day, so he/she can process the expectations you have for the big day.

Text Examples for Thanksgiving Social Stories

Airport on the busiest day of the year!

I am going to the airport with my family to get on the plane to see Grandma and Grandpa.


The airport will be very busy and there will be a lot of people. I may feel nervous or scared, but I will be safe and ok. I will hold mom or dad's hand when we are walking and waiting in line at the airport and on the airplane.

Car trip to Grandma and Granpa's


I am going to get in the car on Thanksgiving morning with my family. We are going to drive to my Grandma and Grandpa's house to celebrate Thanksgiving and eat dinner.


When we arrive at Grandma and Grandpa's house we will get out of the car. I can give Grandma and Grandpa big hugs. They will be happy to see me!

I can read a book with Grandpa or Grandma while I wait for dinner to be ready. I can also play a game or play with my favorite toys that we brought with us. It might be hard to wait for dinner, but I can ask my mom to set the timer so I know how long I will need to wait.

When my mom and dad tell me that dinner is ready, I will go sit at the table with my family. We will eat dinner together. There will be turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie to eat!

After we eat dinner, I can go read a book or play quietly. Then, it will be time to go home in the car. I feel sad when I say goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa, but I will see them soon.

Find Jenni's 10 favorite social skills over here!

Tamara Kaldor is a developmental therapist (aka professional player) in private practice in Chicago. This Thanksgiving she will be recovering from writing her first Smart Apps for Special Needs post by getting lost in the dessert and leaving the cooking to someone else.

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