Edited to add two things:
- In response to the review the developer has dropped the price of the app from $19.99 to $13.99. I think this places it in the ‘must buy’ category if you have children with special needs or work with them.
- I also have two copies of the app to giveaway! You can enter via the rafflecopter at the bottom of this page.
Thanks so much to Special iApps for the codes and for being so responsive to feedback.
The purpose of this post is two-fold. Firstly, it’s our contribution to this month’s Virtual Book Club for Kids blog hop which for January 2014 is focused on books by Laura Numeroff. Secondly, it’s a review of the app we used as part of our activity – Special Stories by Special iApps.
As our book I chose If You Give A Mouse A Cookie because we already had a copy at home. I thought over all the activities we could do inspired by this book and was having a hard time picking one. Then it dawned on me – Oliver loves to act out stories with his toys and ‘re-tell’ them. If we enacted our own version of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, took pictures and then used the pictures to create a book, it would give Oliver a chance to practice talking about things that we did in the past tense, which he has a lot of trouble with. It would also give us a chance to chat about concepts like cause and effect and sequences.
I decided to use Special Stories as the app that we would use to put the book together for a couple of reasons – it’s simple enough for Oliver to use and the final story can be read in iBooks, just like a ‘real’ book.
What we did
Oliver, Owen and I read If You Give A Mouse A Cookie a few times this week, just to brush up on the story. It gave Owen the opportunity to use ‘give’, a new word in his AAC vocabulary for this month, and also to eat cookies (which he already has ample experience of doing but I think he’s training to represent Canada if cookie-eating ever becomes an Olympic sport).
I put together a bag full of all the things we would need – nail scissors, crayons, scotch tape and so on – and Oliver re-enacted every step in the book while I took pictures. I loved having the opportunity to pose questions (like – “What comes next? If you wanted to do ‘X’, what would you need?”) which Oliver could think about but not stress over. If he wasn’t sure he just opened the book to take a look! I think we’ll do this more with books that he really enjoys as it seemed to reinforce for him that he didn’t need to remember everything, he could use his book as a reference point. As with many other autistic people, word retrieval and executive functioning can be a challenge for Oliver, so teaching him how to compensate for that is an important life skill.
With the pictures I’d taken, Oliver and I then sat down to put them together and create our book. Sadly he wasn’t up to recording all of his comments (in the video of the book we made you’ll only hear him on two of the pages) but he absolutely loved reading the final product as a ‘proper’ book in iBooks.
If you’re wondering who Milo is – he’s the mascot for the speech therapy app developers at Speech With Milo. Oliver loves him.
Is the Special Stories app worth buying?
If you want a universal, intuitive way of creating personalized visual sequences, an app that can easily be used solo by older children and adults that also has some fantastic functionality, then Special Stories is well worth a look. It is also switch accessible so if that’s a feature you need then buy the app because it is terrific.
How does it work?
I don’t really even need this section as all I did was open the app and start using it. There is a short Quick Start guide in the app if needed and I do recommend that you check out the ‘View Online Documentation’ section so you don’t miss out on any of the app’s cool features.
Special Stories can obviously be used to create social stories but the potential of the app is boundless. We used it to put together a talking story book but you could also use it for photo albums, task analyses, visual supports, recipes, learning new skills and so on. The app doesn’t try to do everything – the images you can use are ones either from your photo library or that you take with your device’s camera – it’s clearly designed just for creating books that use personal images meaningful to the user. If you’re looking for an app that has images or symbols built in, this isn’t the one for you.
What I like about the app
- It’s universal so it works on the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch
- It has a clean, simple interface that’s easy to use and allows you to create books very quickly. You could easily do stories on the fly with this app.
- It can be used with 1 or 2 bluetooth-enabled switches
- Stories can be printed via an air printer, converted to pdf format or emailed to other Special Stories app users
- The ‘collections’ feature allows you to manage your stories easily if, for example, you are using the app in an educational setting and you have multiple users
- Special Stories integrates with Special Words, another app from the same developer
- You can read the story in the app itself but I LOVE the ability to read the story in iBooks. Not only does this give the impression that it’s a ‘proper’ book but it also allows you to take advantage of iBooks’ ability to customize your book viewing experience with different fonts types, sizes, background colours, etc.
Recommendations for the developer to consider in future updates
- I didn’t miss the lack of stock images or symbols at all but one thing that would be handy is the ability to Google or Bing from within the app to search for an image.
See the app in action
Here’s our version of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie:
*disclosure* I received a copy of Special Stories at no cost in order to write this review. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
a Rafflecopter giveaway