I have been looking for a good social story app for Quentin, since he is so clearly influenced by visual imagery. Social stories have been used with children with autism for quite some time – long before ipads ever existed. In short, they are simply step-by-step stories of everyday events explained, with a lot of visual imagery. For example, Quentin’s fear of haircuts or visiting the dentist could be greatly alleviated with more social stories that explain what will happen in pictures. When Quentin knows what to prepare for, he is less nervous, and more compliant. While I have written a lot on this blog about video modeling, I feel like I missed a step by never exploring social stories, which are much simpler.
While it’s not so difficult to create these on your own with Microsoft Word or Powerpoint, the social story apps for available on the ipad have the added benefit of sound and easy-to-manipulate digital templates. There are actually several apps available that offer basically the same thing, such as adding voice-over narration. But for some reason, the voice-over narration never seemed like a such a great added benefit to me over the old-fashioned printed-and-staped-together option, given the price points. Pictello, a social story app that gets a lot of hype, is $18.99, and Stories2Learn costs $14.99. Like most parents of a special needs child, I’m a little sick of paying top dollar on just about everything.
Kid in Story by Locomotive Labs launched this past week and it immediately caught my attention because it costs significantly less than those other apps ($9.99) and offers a new and enticing option – the ability to insert your child’s picture into the story itself. Intrigued, I contacted the good folks at Locomotive and decided to give it a go.
Anna Johnson from Locomotive Labs told that she was inspired to create Kid in Story after reading Shannon Des Roches Rosa’s blog post about developing smart, simple social stories. (I always love it when app developers listen to smart mom bloggers!) They also considered the research that shows that children with autism benefit from seeing themselves in visual narratives to ease the transition. (Another thumbs up from this researcher.) An added bonus is that when you are done creating this story you can easily share it via email or Dropbox. (Clearly, these developers are thinking about how children with autism typically work with teams of therapists, educators and parents. This is a really great added option.)
Here is a very nicely done video of how to work with the app to create your own stories:
As you can see from the video, the app is very easy to navigate. The technology that allows you to choose a photo of your child and isolate the picture to include in the story works really well; I had no problems inserting my own pictures, once I got them into my photostream. (For those of you not working with Apple products that are sharing photostreams, this part might be a stumbling block. You do need to have your photos on your ipad already somehow. Your best bet might be to email them to yourself and then open them on your ipad and save.) For my first attempt at a story, I used their template for “When is it time to wash my hands?” and found it easy to personalize. Quentin loved seeing himself in the story. He liked flipping back and forth through the book, seeing himself in different poses. I’m not sure if he was paying such close attention to the message about washing his hands, however! (I’m sure that this fascination will wear off eventually.)
My big issue with this app is that the templates they have available right now don’t seem to be the ones we need. For example, we don’t need a story to explain what there is to do at a playground – as we live in New York City, we practically live at playgrounds in the warmer weather, so Quentin does not need that kind of tutorial. We also don’t need a story about visiting San Francisco, as this certainly won’t happen any time soon. The social stories I really want and need for Quentin are about visiting the hairdresser, the dentist, getting his fingernails clipped, going on an airplane, and eating at a restaurant. Perhaps the app developers were not considering such mundane events, but these are the ones we struggle with the most. I am surprised that none of these are in their initial roster of templates.
That being said, I have been reassured by Locomotion that more templates are coming. Visiting the Dentist is one of the story templates they are currently working on, in fact. And of course, I can always create my own story. (This would involve actually finding the time to take the photos I need, of course.) I do hope that the newer templates reflect more of our needs – which, in my mind, are fairly common problem areas for kids on the Spectrum. If you are looking for a somewhat cheaper social story app that allows you to insert your kid’s picture into it, this might be the app for you!
Have you tried other social story apps? Let me know what your experience has been by commenting!