Thursday, June 6, 2013

Storysmart: A Very Interesting Story!

What happens when a veteran Speech Language Pathologist marries a Designer, and they have a child with High Functioning Autism?  

Well... if the moons align correctly, you get some really fabulous apps!

Jennifer Minnelli is the SLP, and her husband Pete Minnelli is the Designer.  Integrating their unique skill sets they founded a company called Rubycube which creates mobile apps for children with high functioning autism, ADHD, and other social challenges. Currently they are producing a series of apps called Storysmart.

Their website describes Storysmart as a "suite of apps that provide both a recreational and therapeutic activity for elementary-school aged children and are designed to help them develop social communication, social cognition, critical thinking and narrative skills."  That is a tall order, but I'd have to say the apps definitely have that ability.  

Ultimately, the Minnelli's plan is to create six stories in the suite. Currently there are two ready from iTunes.  The stories are very reasonably priced at $3.99 a piece.  In addition, the Minnellis intend to make the apps for the Android platform soon.

Passage Choices
Each story presents a page at a time. The artwork is very sweet and endearing, some of it animated, some of it static.  Each page is clean and uncluttered.  The story can read itself, or just each word you touch, providing scaffolded reading support. On each page there are generally two passages that allow the user to choose what the most socially appropriate passage for the situation would be.  Prior to using the app, the user is able to record their own responses for correct and incorrect answers, and when they choose the passage, one of the recorded messages is played, thereby reinforcing the correct answer.

Therapeutically speaking, this app packs a whole-lot-of-punch for SLPs, OTs, or educators who bring their clinical reasoning tools with them.

Tool Bar
There is some nice functionality built into the programming such as the ability to turn the music on or off, change the font, return to the beginning, email Rubycube.  In addition, there is a brief educational section called "Parents" but useful for therapists or educators as well.  All of these features are easily accessed through the tool bar at the bottom of the page.

One feature I'd like to see added would be the ability to either significantly enlarge the font, or change the contrast. The inherent difficulty would likley be that this might change the layout of the pages, but it could make the app more accessible for those with visual impairments.

As noted above, Rubycube has two stories ready to be purchased:

  1. Trudy Goes to the Beach: focuses on what is expected on a family vacation.
  2. Casey's Big Day: focuses on what is expected from a student on his first day of 5th grade, including modulation and transitions.  
They are working on the following:
  1. Ruby Gets in the Game: focusing on playing a team sport, and the nuances of following directions, paying attention, and getting along with others. 
  2. Mario's Big Reactions: focuses on modulation and appropriate problem solving. 
  3. Pia Stands up for Herself: focuses on navigating friendships and self advocating.
  4. Aaron Plays it Safe: focuses on personal space.

If you work or live with a youngster struggling with social skills for any reason, Rubycube's Storysmart suite is  a "must-have" set of apps. 

Happy Therapy!