$22.99View in iTunes
Social Skills with Billy is an app designed to allow children with autism to practice their social skills and pragmatic language skills in age appropriate situations and explores how to navigate friendships from initiating a conversation to resolving a conflict.
What we think
The app uses a visual and clear layout, making it easy for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to navigate and use independently or with a peer. The app can be appropriately scaffolded to suit each child’s skill level and is very structured and predictable to promote independence and understanding. However, the app’s narrator does not provide automatic feedback and therefore relies on the presence of an adult or therapist to support a child’s progress and understanding of an expected vs unexpected response.
The app is engaging and bright but is not visually overwhelming for children with autism. It can be easily navigated and the child is able to ask for the situation to be repeated as many times as required to also support processing time.
The app can be used in a variety of environments. For example, the app would be suitable to use at both home and school, with both peers and family, or even independently. The goals within the app progress from identification to generation of the correct answer and the app tracks a child’s score with a detailed report which can be emailed. There are 100 real life situations in the app pertaining to birthday parties, school, home, restaurants, a hairdresser, a library, a doctor’s office, play dates, airports, visiting a sick grandmother, an excursion, a new baby, general conversations, making new friends, holidays and peer conflicts.
The app displays the child’s score on the screen and a detailed report is also available which can be emailed to parents or teachers to track progress. When a child gives an incorrect response, they hear a range of sounds from neutral to negative. These can be altered but unfortunately, a child is not able to try again which may be frustrating for some students. Children using this app may benefit from additional rewards or motivators from facilitating adults.
The app is best suited to children with well developed language comprehension skills at an upper primary school level. The character of Billy appears to be approximately between the ages of 8-10.
The app explores social skills in many different situations and contexts and can be personalised for different children by selecting the goal that best suits their skill level. The app can also be used appropriately in 1:1 environments, small group environments or independently.
The app covers several main categories targeting the skills understanding expected vs unexpected responses as well as understanding the emotions of others. These main categories are scaffolded to suit the skill level of the child, ranging from identifying using multiple choice to generating the answer independently.
The character, Billy, appears to be around 8-10 years old however sometimes he may engage in play at a preschool level (e.g. playing in a sandpit) or he may engage in situations which are above his age such as paying for the bill at a restaurant. There are also scenes within the app where Billy may say the expected response, but he has done an unexpected action e.g. saying sorry after pulling a friends hair. Scenes such as these may be confusing for some children, therefore the app could be improved by allowing adults, therapists and teachers to select the scenes that are appropriate for their child, rather than the app selecting the scenes randomly.
I love that this app explores social skills in many different ways and provides a colourful and engaging layout which is not too visually overwhelming for children with autism. The app provides a variety of contexts and situations which allows for discussions on real life situations and great explicit teaching opportunities. The app is a great introduction to understanding the link between behaviour and emotions to support students to develop their understanding of how their words/ actions can impact the emotions and thoughts of others. This app is a great resource for school aged children and is a great addition to any small social skills group.