A short blog post today just to share the exciting (and slightly belated) news that we now have a few more research-based apps available for download. Our original app, Find Me, was developed for iOS (in other words, iPad and iPhone) and has received more than 100,000 downloads since its release. You can find out more about the research attached to that app here. Now, four new apps are available for Android devices, including versions of FindMe and two new social skills games.
After the release of FindMe, I continued to work with the licensed developer – TigerFace Games, a subsidiary of Interface 3 – to create some more apps for children with autism. The motivation was principally to develop a suite of apps which would all be accessible to pre-schoolers, but would target sightly different, developmentally-important social skills. In addition, we wanted to respond to feedback on the original FindMe app (see below) about things like the difficult transition from the first half of FindMe – finding a person on the screen – to the second half where the child has to work out what the person is pointing and looking at.
The result is that we now have apps available, depending on the platform you use, which aim to help children rehearse
- paying attention to people by finding them in a scene: FindMe part 1 for iOS, or FindMefor Android
- following social cues like where someone is looking or pointing: FindMe part 2 for iOS, or FindMe Pointing for Android
- understanding other people’s minds, by practising giving them the food and drink they like best: FindMe Picnic Time for Android
- understanding the link between behaviour and knowledge – learning that you have to see inside a box to know what’s in there: FindMe Who knows what? for Android
Obviously I am very biased when it comes to my own apps so I’m now going to hand over to a mother who kindly offered to write a post describing the experiences of herself and her son using the iOS FindMe app:
Find Me – a gentle intro to the iPad
Hunter is 8 years old, he has classic autism and is pre-verbal. Hunter’s comprehension is limited and he finds it hard to communicate. In addition to these difficulties, Hunter also struggles with his fine motor skills. Hunter has sensory issues too – he loses concentration if his environment becomes too busy. Hunter finds it hard to sit still.
With so many obstacles you would think that Hunter would find it hard to learn. This is not true – he can learn, he just needs the right tools.
When we first looked into getting an iPad for Hunter we didn’t know where to start – what tool would Hunter need to access this new technology? Which app would teach Hunter to look at the screen, follow instructions, touch the screen, discriminate? There are loads of apps that claim to do this, but many of them are too complicated and difficult for Hunter.
FindMe was the perfect first learning app for Hunter. FindMe is a lovely, gentle introduction to the iPad. The graphics are simple and pleasing to look at, and the spoken instructions clear and easy to follow (without being patronising). With practice, Hunter was able to independently locate and touch the person on the screen. Hunter liked the dancing graphics and the choice of reinforcing reward screens. The app learning levels increase and as they do so, the screen layout becomes more busy, yet not overwhelmingly so that Hunter was unable to continue playing. The app enabled Hunter to grow in confidence in using the iPad, so much so that he was able to cross the mid line (move his left hand across his body to the right hand of the screen) to locate the person on screen. Crossing the mid line can be something that Hunter finds hard to do, but with Find Me, Hunter was able to concentrate and do it.
The stumbling block was after level 5. Unfortunately Hunter couldn’t move past level 5 – where the user has to touch what the person on screen is pointing to or looking at, rather than the person themselves. This was a real shame. Hunter didn’t understand that he should no longer touch the person on screen past this level. He assumed he should continue to touch the person he could see.
Would it work having other objects on their own on screen (e.g. a teddy) intermittently in the stages up to level 5, as part of the sequence of people on their own on screen, so the child gets used to the transition to touching things after level 5? Or past level 5, maybe it could work having the thing they are pointing to (e.g. an apple) very close to the person on screen to begin with, and then moving it further away?
Despite not being able to complete all the stages on Find Me, we would still recommend this app as a great starting tool for a child with autism. Find Me was Hunter’s introduction to the iPad. When there are so many apps out there, yet so few your child can actually learn from, Find Me is a lovely way in to the iPad world for a child like Hunter.