App-tivate Your Social Skills Groups Download these apps for a more visual, interactive conversation-building session with students. App-titude
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App-titude  |   April 01, 2015
App-tivate Your Social Skills Groups
Author Notes
  • Sean J. Sweeney, MA, CCC-SLP, is a private practitioner and middle school instructional technology specialist in Newton, Massachusetts. His blog, SpeechTechie (www.speechtechie.com), looks at technology “through a language lens.” sean@speechtechie.com
    Sean J. Sweeney, MA, CCC-SLP, is a private practitioner and middle school instructional technology specialist in Newton, Massachusetts. His blog, SpeechTechie (www.speechtechie.com), looks at technology “through a language lens.” sean@speechtechie.com×
Article Information
Telepractice & Computer-Based Approaches / Normal Language Processing / Language Disorders / Social Communication & Pragmatics Disorders / App-titude
App-titude   |   April 01, 2015
App-tivate Your Social Skills Groups
The ASHA Leader, April 2015, Vol. 20, 40-41. doi:10.1044/leader.APP.20042015.40
The ASHA Leader, April 2015, Vol. 20, 40-41. doi:10.1044/leader.APP.20042015.40
Listening. Taking turns. Responding flexibly.
These are obvious targets of social intervention with children on the spectrum. We want to get kids talking and sharing cooperatively—and the good news is that many apps offer visual and interactive materials to help.
Several of them stand out as social-skills stars.
For reading. The Epic! app provides a free electronic books portal to educators (available on iOS; sign up for an educator account), offering picture books that can prompt discussion of social behaviors. E-books help build students’ conversational language, address literacy goals and reduce time spent collecting materials. As speech-language pathologists know, book discussion requires the key conversational skills of listening, responding to questions, storytelling and generating comments. Book contexts can also relate directly to social concepts, such as those imparted in the Social Thinking® methodology (based on the work of Michelle Garcia Winner, see www.socialthinking.com for many books and free resources) and tools such as The Incredible 5-Point Scale.
For watching. Videos present similar social contexts, and movie-watching—however brief—is always a hit with students. Guided by the interests of your age group, locate videos from Sesame Street, My Little Pony or even TV commercials that demonstrate positive or negative social interactions for modeling and discussion. You can find a huge range of options by searching for videos on the Pinterest app (free for multiple platforms). Playing from the app eliminates the distractions of related video choices in the YouTube app.
For taking turns. Sharing an iPad among students helps them develop skills of turn-taking, negotiation, awareness of time and collaboration within group goals and play. Consider open-ended “sandbox” apps as a way to develop narrative play and other skills. Apps such as Toca Town, suitable for elementary-age groups ($2.99 across multiple platforms), present different environments in which students can move characters, all while assuming cooperative roles. In Toca Town, users can interact with a world of cartoon characters across settings, including a park, restaurant and grocery store—useful for role-playing in varied situations.
For gaming. The key to using game-based apps within groups is pace. Games that are flexibly paced and lack time-sensitive moves allow clinicians to control turns and pull the iPad back to scaffold interaction and problem-solving among students. Under these conditions, you can use even the ever-developing series of Angry Birds games ($2.99 for multiple platforms) to initiate group plans and strategize while using language for interaction. Discuss emotions using the context of the game and use complementary activities such as hands-on games, the wordless Angry Birds Toons videos, and crafting. Additionally, check out the work of SLP Tara Roehl on addressing social and executive functioning through game contexts such as Angry Birds.
For creating. LEGO offers a series of free apps with creation features that you can use in group projects involving—just for example—art, crafts or cooking. With LEGO Movie Maker (free for iOS), kids can work together to create simple stop-motion animation, using figurines and playsets, to demonstrate body language and other communication skills. LEGO Friends Story Maker (free for iOS, Android) is easily employed as a cooperative activity, allowing students to visualize communication within scenes using word and thought balloons. Check out Comics Head Lite (free for iOS, Android) for similar activities.
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April 2015
Volume 20, Issue 4