Sunday, October 12, 2014

Girls and Autism: difficulties in diagnosis, plus apps for visual modeling for social skills!

In my job as a speech-language pathologist, I know that it can be more difficult to recognize and diagnose autism in girls. We know that the incidence rate is higher in boys than in girls, but autims also presents differently in girls than in boys. Girls may have better social skills, and may have fewer of the repetitive behaviors associated with autism, according to this article from CNN.  I think about this area a lot in my job as an SLP, wanting to serve the girls on my caseload as effectively as the boys.

For a long time, the protective effect was the most-researched issue relating to girls and autism. While this research is important, the girls who already have autism really benefit from more research and awareness to these differences in presentation. Do girls have different therapeutic needs? While girls with autism may have better social skills as compared to boys, girls are often expected to have better social skills in general than boys, and the social nuances of relationships are often more evident at an earlier age in girls.

Currently, not much of the research has led to any therapy recommendations yet, but there are some good articles that are beginning to explore these differences. Check out what I'm reading:

Autism Characteristics Differ by Gender

Thousands of girls may have undiagnosed autism

Autism Gender Differences

I use a lot of apps in therapy in general, but I've found that the girls I work with are very motivated by apps with video modeling (as are the boys), over the apps that present simply written or verbal scenarios.

Here are some of the apps I'm using in my therapy for girls with autism:

The Social Express II
This app is not really free, though it's a free download from iTunes. It requires a monthly subscription of a minimum of $4.95 per month. However, I have one student who adores this app and is able to implement what she learns into her daily interactions, so it's worth it to me. The app recently shows a huge number of "coming soon" video episodes which I can't wait to try out.

(iPad only, free with required subscriptions to access any information)

Between the Lines Series
This series of apps from Hamaguchi apps includes short video and audio clips to address listening (including tone of voice), body language and expressions (figurative language). I find them invaluable. They also come at a cost, of $15.99 for the full version and $.99 for the lite version. But both do go on sale, so watch our page for alerts.

Full version, $15.99
Lite version, $.99

Give Me 5!!!!! Social Skills
I like a lot about this app, especially the feedback for why a particular choice is right. There is room for growth (even with 40 videos, I want more), but my students are really enjoying it. A new multiplayer version has been released, too! A note: the iPad has to be held vertically to get the Plinko disc to drop.

(iPad/iPhone, $3.99)

Step By Step Getting Dressed With The Wonkidos
There are several of these apps from Brighter Futures for Beautiful Minds, and this one is FREE! It features an animated video instead of live action, but is still a great model. Most of the other apps are $3.99 each, including Playing with Friends, Ordering at a Restaurant and more. Check the iTunes store for

(iPad/iPhone, FREE)

Social Skill Builder
The full version is $19.99, but the lite version is just $2.99 with four modules, giving the user a great understanding of the 19 modules in the full version. A short video scene is presented, followed by multiple choice questions related to that scene. It's followed by a video where the character does something unexpected instead.

FULL version, $19.99
LITE version, $2.99
Social Skills Sampler HD
This app is perfect for older students and features seven different scenarios, including Follow Directions and Join Others in Groups. Each scenario is subdivided into parts with a video for each part. There are additional apps by the Conover Company designed in a similar way, and many are free.

All Conover Company apps


Heather H. loves working with girls and boys with autism.

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