I am a finalist in a national contest that asks people to invent ideas for apps for children with autism! The contest is sponsored by Autism Speaks, one of the major autism advocacy groups, and the “winner” will have the app designed for use. My colleague at Vanderbilt University, Lynnette Henderson, and I came up with the idea of “Homework Super Hero“.
The winner is determined by voting on the Facebook page of Autism Speaks and the competition ends on February 17th. I want to emphasize that we get no money from this- just the deep satisfaction that we might have helped some parents and teachers and kids…
Please vote! THe link to vote is: Autism Speaks http://www.facebook.com/autismspeaks?v=app_306225262780703&rest=1&app_data=essay%3D133034
APP DESCRIPTION: Homework Super Hero could be an app that encourages children with autism to organize their thinking and to reduce anxiety related to homework issues. It would help students to metacognitively determine how much homework they had and in what areas, linking to a notebook thta gets filled in during the day, in which students log their homework and estimate how much time it will take to complete the homework. As they activate the Homework Hero, the app asks questions that the child answers in the affirmative- Do you have a place to work? Is it quiet? Do you have the sound the way you want (quiet or low music)? As students answer, they are given their ‘superpowers’ that they can then use to ‘combat’ the game. As they complete their homework, they log it. The homework app keeps track of the time and compares it to the time that the student estimated. The child tries to not only ‘beat the clock’ but come close to their estimated time. They get points for completion and more points for having gotten close to their estimated time. They then get even more points when the homework is graded and the child logs in the grade. Points lead to levels which can then be tied to rewards that the child can preselect. If the estimated time is over 20 minutes, the app can break the actitivity up into two or more sections- each no more than 15-20 minutes long. The clock can be programmed to call the student back to attention after a 10 minute break. In addition to the homework focus, the app can have features that are appropriate for students with autism. Halfway through each homework assisgnment, the app can stop and ask the child to click on a visual icon that describes their frustration level from 1 (low) to 5 (about to blow). If the icon is above a 3, the app can provide some support through a set of scripted stories- ‘Tell yourself you can do this. You can remember doing this in class. If you need to ask a question, use your resources….’
COMMUNITY BENEFIT: The app is designed for three different audiences- the student themself, the parents, and teachers.
The app should benefit the student by taking a stressful situation- homework- and turning it into a visual and interesting electronic game. The game is structured to help students with executive functioning challenges learn how to moderate their response to homework situations, estimate, and take control of their homework. By providing emotional support, the goal is to focus homework, stress management and emotional regulation in one location.
The app is also designed to help parents who must work with a child during homework. By taking some of the “structuring” of the experience off of the parents’ shoulders, the parents can focus on actually providing content assistance. In addition, the parents can review the homework provided by the teacher on one app, instead of checking a sheet that the teacher completes and that the child may or may not have written correctly. By providing “points” for correct homework, the child can be motivated to document and do homework. Doing homework with a child with autism can be stressful for everyone. This app is designed to help students with autism and their parents focus on the academic component, while providing structured emotional management as well.
Lastly, the app is designed to help teachers document a child’s homework and to provide feedback to parents about grades, progress, etc. The app could be linked to IEP goals and encourage the child to become a “Super Hero” to work on IEP goals.