Friendships Fixes: Apps That Boost Social Skills
Two easy-to-use mobile apps to help your child form long-lasting friendships and adapt to life’s daily ups and downs.
Children with special needs — particularly autism, ADHD, or oppositional defiant disorder — often struggle in social situations. Luckily, there are easy-to-use apps that can help parents and educators teach these skills — and build a child’s confidence in the process.
Let’s Be Social
> $9.99; everydayspeech.com
A revolutionary tool designed to help parents and special needs professionals teach social skills to children, Let’s Be Social offers 40 pre-made lessons that cover topics like the importance of eye contact, staying on topic and taking turns in a conversation, and navigating new or scary situations, like going to the doctor. Teachers or parents can customize lessons to address a child’s specific needs or maturity level; the app can be used for children from kindergarten to high school.
Voice-recording functions and the ability to introduce personalized images into the lessons help children relate to each subject on a personal level — making it more likely that they’ll apply what they’ve learned to their daily lives. Intuitive editing tools allow educators to create their own lesson in minutes, addressing the less common social interactions that children might encounter.
> $24.99; circlesapp.com
It’s hard for some children with ADHD to understand appropriate boundaries, and they are often targeted by others for their naïveté. The Circles app, based on research conducted at Harvard University, is an innovative way to teach kids to understand the idea of different kinds of relationships — including which kinds of touch are appropriate and how to know when other people are violating their personal boundaries.
The simple interface lets children assign different people to different “circles” — Mom goes in the innermost “private” circle, for instance, while a trusted family doctor can be placed in the “handshake circle.” Total strangers — or people we see every day, but don’t know, like the mailman — are put in the outermost circle. Kids learn that hugs or other intimate touches from people in this circle are not appropriate, and are taught how to respond to behavior that makes them feel unsafe.
The ability to move people between circles as relationships develop is critical for teaching children how acquaintances may evolve into friends over time — or vice versa.