Students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) vary widely in their skills, interests and needs. As one of the diagnostic criteria, however, navigating appropriate social skills remains a challenge for all students with autism. Social interactions involve many implicit rules, so it’s no wonder students with ASD can get mixed up.
Below, I listed some of my favorite apps for modeling appropriate social behavior—through videos and images—as well as a few for teaching social expectations. All these programs aim to make those implicit rules explicit. They also help students grasp and follow invisible rules. In addition to teaching social rules, they help students figure out how to apply them.
With each app, view the videos to ensure they relate to your students. Even better, try making your own social skills slideshows, books or videos with your students. This gives them an opportunity to demonstrate their social language, and it makes the modeling examples much more meaningful. Finally, some of these apps also help students practice retelling personal narratives. And you can adapt all of them to teach social stories.
Top 5 iPad Apps for Pragmatics and Social Skills
- Stories2Learn ($13.99): This app features several premade social stories, but the ability to upload your own social stories is my favorite aspect. It keeps the app socially relevant. Stories include events like turn-taking, recess and reciprocal play.
- Social Detective ($17.99): Created as an accompaniment to Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking Curriculum, Social Detective prompts students to think about various aspects of social interactions. Videos and quizzes prompt students to evaluate what they know about social expectations.
- Social Skill Builder ($1.99 or $5.99): Like Social Detective, Social Skill Builder requires students to watch videos and share their thoughts. For example, “What reaction does the person in this video expect?” A nice mix of live-action videos and cartoons makes the app engaging and relevant to school-aged students.
- Talking Train ($1.99): Talking Train is a simple app. It shows users a picture of a train, then offers three possible cars where students can draw, write, upload photos or record their voices. This provides an excellent way to practice retelling personal or social stories. If students find it too difficult to create their own models, clinicians can record their voices and assist with drawings or photos.
- Book Creator ($4.99): Book Creator wasn’t created as a social communication tool, but you can use it to make model situations by uploading sequenced pictures of a social story, like going to a restaurant. Or use the app to document an experience, like a journal. The visuals from a book help anchor a child’s retelling of a special trip or occasion, thereby increasing their social communication.
More on teaching social skills:
Jules Csillag, MS, CCC-SLP, is a school-based SLP and consultant who works throughout New York City. She also wrote the book “Differentiated Reading Instruction: Strategies and Technology Tools to Help All Students Improve.” Follow her @julesteaches. firstname.lastname@example.org