Special Needs App of the Day - QuickCues

Special Needs App of the Day - QuickCues

This article is courtesy of Wynsum Arts' Every App Has a Story, the stories behind Wynsum Arts' distinguished apps.

“With our user group, there is a need for direct instruction and we want to teach them everything we can so they don’t have to learn from their mistakes over and over again.”

-- Jody Hofer Van Ness, Psychoeducational Consultant, The Fraser Institute


The Fraser Institute has used social scripts for years to teach teens and young adults on the autism spectrum how to handle new situations and learn new skills. The advent of iPads and iPhones brought the team at Fraser a practical new tool for sharing these scripts in a way that is mobile, discreet and easily accessible to users who are bright but lack social understanding and executive function skills.

Jody Hofer Van Ness, a psychoeducational consultant at The Fraser Institute, says, “I am a firm believer in consistency across environments. Mobile apps make that possible. In the past, people with autism have been dependent to a point on the expertise of people at hand in different environments. QuickCues can support users across all environments: home, clinical and school. In the clinical arena, we’ve been talking about providing consistent support for years but we’ve never had the mechanism. It is so rewarding to help create a tool that does provide consistent support.”

Jody, alongside a team of Fraser skill trainers, penned these scripts based on Jody’s experiences with her son, who has autism, and the many young adults that come to Fraser for social skills training.

Why Did You Create QuickCues?

Jody Hofer Van Ness: QuickCues is a teaching and prompting tool. People with autism often need reminders on how to handle social or stressful situations. They also need repetition to commit the “rules” to long-term memory and to generalize to different situations to use the learned skills fluidly. We wanted to create a discreet tool to make social scripts available to users when they need them.

Users can access the scripts on QuickCues in anticipation of a situation that causes them some anxiety. For example, one of the topics in the communication module is conversation starters. A teen might study this module before the first day of classes if he expects to experience social anxiety at school.

Users can also use the app as a problem-solving tool. For example, one of the topics in the job module is how to handle conflict at work. The app is designed to help users troubleshoot their issues and feel prepared for situations that they cannot navigate intuitively.

Parents and teachers are busy. We wanted to compile scripts in a “grab-and-go” format for the real world. Most of the scripts were born from real experience in our clinic. Our team members who lead our skills groups write scripts for specific needs, but many can be generalized. Additionally, parents were asking us for specific scripts.

I have a 24-year-old son with autism. I feel responsible to teach him everything he doesn’t learn incidentally.

It is the same with our team. With our user group, there is a need for direct instruction and we want to teach them everything we can so they don’t have to learn from their mistakes over and over again. That is the driving force behind this app.

How Does QuickCues Work?

Jody Hofer Van Ness: Our users crave organization, and while there is overlap in the modules of QuickCues, we’ve organized the app by social circumstance.

Once users download the app and the main communication module, they can purchase other modules that fit their needs.

  • The Communication module covers social rules about conversations, including how to initiate, maintain and repair conversations; how to know if someone is listening; how to show you are interested; how to ask for help.
  • The Coping module helps users de-stress before they try to communicate. They should be pretaught what their calming mechanisms are -- music, calling someone they trust, deep breathing, etc. -- and the app helps to reinforce this knowledge of what works for them so that they can use these tools when stressful situations arise.
  • The Life Skills module focuses on executive functioning, organizing, planning and self-regulation. Specific topics include hygiene, schedules and task organizers, healthy eating, taking medication, writing a resume and job interviews.
  • The Socialization module helps with social cognition, ranging from how to behave on a date to how to handle bullies. Specific topics include flexible thinking vs. rigid thinking, internet safety, showing happiness for others, giving a compliment, and standing up for oneself.
  • The On the Job module focuses on employment-specific situations, such as polite conversation, eye contact, making a good impression, manners at work and taking mass transit to work.

We are also working on a new module related to safety and boundary issues.

To find more apps to help your child with autism, download Wynsum Arts’ free app, i.AM Search - available on iTunes.

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