This week I got an email from the developers at FizzBrain about their apps for children with Autism. They offered to give me some free time to try out their apps and consider writing a review. I checked out the website and liked what I saw, so I replied and offered to try them out and review the app. Here is the write-up they gave me about the games.
"Look in my Eyes," a game to help children on the autism spectrum
"Look in My Eyes" is a game for the iPhone and iPod touch designed to help children on the autism spectrum practice eye contact. The game rewards children for quickly focusing in on a person’s eyes. Through repeated practice we attempt to develop a habit that families can transfer to real life settings as they remind children to use the skills they have practiced in the game. The game makes practice fun as players use the points they earn to buy items for their own virtual world, such as a restaurant or autoshop - a unique reward system that grew out of our decades of classroom teaching experience (we are both teachers, one with a masters degree in special education). We have combined this experience with our extensive training in best education practices and many years of close personal relationships with children who have Asperger’s Syndrome and autism to create a social skills game we hope will benefit your child! We also have some promo codes available for free downloads to families who could benefit. Contact email@example.com if you are interested. We have many more games to come in the future so check back frequently. Read more about the games, read reviews from parents, and see screenshots at www.fizzbrain.com
These two apps are designed specifically to help those with Autism and Asperger's to look someone in the eyes. The idea is simple: provide some detail in the eyes (in this case a briefly showing number), ask the person to identify the number, and they receive a reward. Once they have built up their rewards, they can use it to "purchase" additional rewards.
As those with Special Education experience will no doubt recognize, this is simple, effective, and commonly used Behavior learning techniques. Ideal, I might add, for most if not all children in on the Spectrum. It's not surprising when you learn that the developers have the benefit of a Masters in Special Education. And it works. It works very well.
I downloaded the apps and tried them on my son. At first I just opened it and let him go at it, at which point he promptly switched out of it and into his favorite apps. Realizing this will take some time, I then sat him down next to me, started an app, and played with it a little bit. He then was hooked. He didn't play it as it was designed to play, as he didn't really care about amassing the reward dollars. Instead, as he is learning his numbers now in preschool, he did it purely for the number recognition.
This is something the app doesn't advertise, and yet does beautifully. My son is excellent with his letter recognition, and can't be tripped up with the wrong letter. But he's not so strong on his numbers. So the application does two things: teaches him to look into the eyes of other children and adults, while also helping him with his number recognition. It's brilliant!
Now, I did bill these apps as unique. Why? Because they don't focus on communication. At all. Instead, they focus on behavior, which children with Autism really need along with their communication skills. So while a lot of Autism billed apps focus on helping children recognize words, learn to speak, for speak for them, these apps help children deal with a basic social experience: looking someone in the eye.
I can highly recommend these apps for any parent with a child on the Spectrum. Don't be surprised if they don't play the game as you would expect, but as long as they get the basic idea (look in the eyes, see the number, touch the number), you will see benefits. I only hope to see more apps like this coming from the Autism community that focus on real social skills beyond simple communication.
If you are interested in learning more about the applications, feel free to contact them. They also said they would be willing to offer free promotional codes to parents to read the review on this blog, so if you are interested email Abbie at the address above, and mention the blog.
Thanks FizzBrain for the work, and I'm looking forward to other programs you have coming down the pipe!