Anytime I download an app to target social skills or pragmatic language I always look at it two ways- 1. Is this an effective therapy tool?
2. Can I use it with my own child with autism?. My son "graduated" social group and no longer receives speech therapy, but he still struggles with social skills on a daily basis. I love it when I can use something from work at home! I will give you my opinion from my two unique perspectives!
Social Quest is an iPad app by Smarty Ears that is available in the Apple App Store for $21.99. Affiliate link below:
Description from iTunes:
Social Quest is an application developed by author and Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) Rosie Simms to improve pragmatic language comprehension and expression in a variety of social situations for older elementary, middle school, and high school-aged populations. Social Quest uses real life situations and contextual images to present the professional, parent and student with ‘’jumping off’ points for discussing the “why” and “how” of social language usage. The app utilizes a problem-solving quest theme in which students navigate various locations and earn “rewards” linked to social competencies. Read more on iTunes by clicking the black button above.
The SLP Opinion of Social Quest:
This app provides over 800 social scenarios to discuss with your students. This app works best with older elementary aged students to middle school aged students (depending on skill level). I use it the most with my 4th-8th grade students in social groups. I absolutely love all of the different social settings that this app explores (community, home, & school). This allows me to target social skills that may relate directly to what a student is struggling with at that moment. The questions on the prompts target what to say, do, and infer in a wide variety of situations in the areas of perspective-taking, conversational maintenance/ transitions, interpreting other's reactions, turn taking, problem solving, understanding humor, initiating greetings, and scripts for social contexts. I have read some reviews by others that some of the prompts are too vague or easy, but you can easily skip prompts that do not work for your student or use them as open-ended discussion points! I found that many of the questions in this app are relate-able to school aged students.
Basic app features that are essential in my opinion:
Individual data tracking and reporting capabilities
Ability to run groups with unique student objectives ( each student can work on their own social skills area)
Receptive and Expressive Modes
Engaging interface to keep students' interest
A variety of social settings (as stated above: community, home, and school).
A real life picture to go with each prompt
A variety of options in the setting menu to select your preferences for sounds and audio in the app.
A long press feature to end the session (to prevent the student from accidentally closing the app while in progress)
There is an option for multiple choice, but I like to leave it in the expressive mode for open-ended discussions. I think this is key for the effectiveness of this app. I rarely use this app on it's own (as in just answering the questions one after the other). I suggest using this app as a launching point for evidence based therapy techniques such as scripting/role play, video modeling, social narratives, and peer mediated instruction and intervention.
I will discuss briefly how to incorporate Social Quest into these strategies that I use in my social groups (I work with 3yo-12th graders in a public school district). Most of my social groups consist of 4th-8th graders.
Video Modeling: This technique is a little more tricky to incorporate but it can be done with the help of youtube or teachertube. After you discuss a prompt from the app, search for a video to model the skill. For example- In the mall setting in Social Quest there is a prompt for ordering snacks at a food court. After you discuss this, search for a video that shows students ordering food at a restaurant or food court. This visual feedback and been proved to help students pick up these important skills. *Disclaimer* you muse screen ALL videos before using them in therapy! Please note: I am not talking about video social stories (that are scripted with expected behaviors/responses), I am talking about videos that show the action as it would occur naturally (example: an actual video of someone ordering food).
Social Narratives: If a student had difficulty with a specific prompt in the app. You can make a social narrative story for them. This can help reinforce the appropriate or expected response in that situation and they can take it with them to reflect upon in the future. For Example- There is a prompt about getting a shot at the doctor. If the student struggles with going to the doctor, you could make a social narrative about what to expect at the doctor. I like to make my own stories (research Carol Gray's Social Stories for a great guide on how to write them) but there are also some available on Teachers Pay Teachers and Boardmaker Share.
Peer Mediated Instruction and Intervention: If you are fortunate enough to run peer mediated social groups, this app provides plenty of discussion points for the group. I like having the Social Quest app open and go through the prompts with the peers leading the discussion. It is valuable for students who struggle to hear their peer's perspective on certain social issues that are addressed with this app. Please note: for effective PMII, you must train the typically developing peers beforehand.
I will sometimes use the app in a session as it was intended (discussing each prompt one after the other). This way is great for taking data as you can can rate their responses as "missed, almost, or got it." If you are using it in the receptive mode (multiple choice) the app automatically tracks their responses based on the answer they select. This app also has a built in reinforcement where the student collects prizes to place in their individual Hall of Rewards. Some of my students really get into collecting the prizes in the app.
This app is handy to have because you have hundreds of social skills prompts right at your fingertips. I have found it more useful than most of the social skills card decks I have collected over the years. I have read reviews about this app that state that there isn't enough guidance for new SLPs to rate responses. This was not the purpose of this app (that is what graduate school and clinical experience is for). This is a tool for therapists to use, not as a stand alone program to teach social skills.
The Mom Opinion of Social Quest:
I have used this with my son on occasion, but as most kids, he is resistant to doing "speech" at home (so I reward him for working with me). I have used many programs over the years, but our main program is Social Thinking by Michelle Garcia Winner. We can incorporate social thinking techniques while we discuss the prompts in Social Quest. My son really struggles with perspective taking and understanding "hidden social cues." There are many prompts in Social Quest that allow us to discuss situations that encompass these skills. I love that it has a picture to go with each prompt (a visual representation is a must for my son). My son is in 5th grade and he really liked the knights theme of the app. He thought the Hall of Rewards was cool and he actually used that as a transition tool ("I will collect 10 rewards and then I will be done"). I also love that I can turn of the sounds when he gets a response right or wrong. Some students will benefit from that feedback, but it just irritated my son. I think it is a wonderful tool to have at home, but I am a trained SLP who can guide a child through the prompts with expertise. A parent may have a little more difficulty with this but I think most of the prompts have an obvious appropriate or expected response that a parent could identify (even if they are not an SLP).
Summary: As with any app in therapy, it is important to know that this is not comprehensive program to improve a skill. I am a firm believer that apps in therapy can be truly beneficial and motivating if it is done with proper interaction and participation from the therapist. Social Quest is a valuable tool that provides opportunities to discuss important skills in a fun and engaging interface. I think all SLPs working with upper elementary-middle school aged students should own this app! It is a great value for all of the content!
Want to get a peek inside? Here are a few screenshots from the app:
Have you tried this app? Let me know by leaving a comment! You can also leave me any app suggestions that you have for me as an SLP or as a mom! Thanks for reading!
Sources for summaries outlining the evidence for the techniques mentioned above:
Video Modeling: Franzone, E., & Collet-Klingenberg, L. (2008). Overview of video modeling. Madison, WI: The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders, Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin.
Peer Mediated Intervetion: Sam, A., & AFIRM Team. (2015). Peer-mediated instruction and intervention. Chapel Hill, NC: National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder, FPG Child Development Center, University of North Carolina.
Scripting: Fleury, V. P. (2013). Scripting (SC) fact sheet. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, Frank Porter Graham ChildDevelopment Institute, The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Social Narratives: Collet-Klingenberg, L., & Franzone, E. (2008). Overview of social narratives. Madison, WI: The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders, Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin.
Disclaimer: I did not receive any compensation for this review nor was it solicited by the developer.