College Student Creates Apps for Autism

MeganHolsteinWhile most college students are worrying about how the job market will treat them upon graduation, others are taking matters into their own hands. Students like Megan Holstein from Ohio State University, who created Pufferfish Software, a company that creates I-Phone apps for people with autism and their caregivers.

Megan has two brothers, both of whom are on the autism spectrum. Her youngest brother is non-verbal, and her mother was unable to find appropriate apps for him. Megan realized that she could help her brother, and many others, by creating the apps that he needed. She created her first app, Touch Talking, when she was only 15 years old. Since then, she has created several more, and her apps are endorsed by the Autism Society of Ohio, Autism Plugged In, and A4CWSN (Apps for Children with Special Needs), along with several other organizations supporting individuals with special needs.

Touch Talking is a handy app for young children or for individuals with limited verbal skills. It consists of a series of pictures of everyday items, grouped into categories. Touching the picture causes the phone to say the word. This app is useful for teaching vocabulary words, and can also be used to help an individual with limited verbal skills communicate. This app also allows you to choose the voice the phone will use (male or female), to change the visual type to best suit the individual, and to remove the captions to add extra challenge.

Her social stories app creates a template for caregivers to create social stories on their phones. The simple format includes pictures and large font descriptors that can be adjusted as necessary. There is also a visual progress tracker at the bottom of the screen, to give the individual with autism a sense of how long they have to go.

The visual routine app is similar to the velcro schedules one often sees in special-needs classrooms, but on your phone. It includes spaces for pictures and short descriptors, and makes a handy, portable visual reference.

The Present a Choice app offers caregivers an easy way to present everyday choices to their loved one with autism. Parents can snap pictures of their child’s favorite foods, toys, or places, and have them on hand to use with this app. The simple format allows caregivers to add several options to a choice, for example, what do you want for lunch? The question is displayed at the top of the screen, and the pictures of the options are displayed underneath, giving the person with autism clear visual cues to choose from.

The Emotion Cards app contains 9 sets of 9 cards each, for a total of 81 pictures of emotions. Each emotion has a photograph, with the name of the emotion and the definition. This app is useful for teaching facial expressions to people with autism.

For more information about Pufferfish Software, visit their website at www.pufferfishapps.com.