App helps kids with autism navigate social skills

A Cork-based centre for children with special needs has launched its second app aimed at helping to develop social skills in young people with autism.

Yesterday saw the unveiling of Shine Ireland’s free app which addresses issues such as online friendships and safety; the use of smart devices; bullying and peer pressure.

Shine Ireland’s first social skills app is approaching 40,000 downloads worldwide and has won the Net Visionary Award for “Best Innovation in Technology for Learning” and the Excellence in the Community Award from Chambers Ireland.

“Children and adolescents with high functioning autism and Asperger Syndrome can find social situations very difficult and stressful,” said Laura Crowley, director of education at Shine Ireland.

“There are so many social rules that are not instinctive to people with autism, which means that they have to work at learning these rules. This can be confusing and cause anxiety as many social rules are unwritten and not spoken about.”

As with the first social skills app, the premise of the new game sees users learn social skills in order to aid an alien character called Kloog navigate our social rules and customs after he crash lands on Earth.

The sequel sees Kloog return to his home planet, and follows the outline of the first app. Progress through the app is reward driven with a series of quizzes and bonus animations.

“The reason that the quizzes are built into the app is to test concept comprehension and there is restricted progress through the app until the user reaches the required level of understanding,” said Ms Crowley.

“These evaluations of understanding are key in ensuring that progress is based on increased competencies in each area of the app.”

At the launch of the app were Eamon O’Donovan, chairman Shine Centre Cork; Colette Quinn, Real Insights; Senator Jerry Buttimer; and Kieran Kennedy, Shine Centre.

Funded by the Bon Secours Hospital Cork’s Community Initiative Fund and designed by Creative Design & Web Development Studio Doodle Creative, the app is available for free on the Google Play and iTunes store.

“It is a project that Cork can be very proud of as the thought leadership and the creative development of the project came from this city,” said Andrew McCarthy of Bon Secours Hospital Cork.

Grace O’Callaghan and Alma Carroll, both Shine Centre Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan

“The app provides a key support to children with autism, and their families, locally, nationally and internationally and it’s making a significant difference in the lives of children with autism, and their families who need it the most. We are proud to help support and develop that spirit of innovation,” he said.

Chris Davies, of the Cork-based Doodle Creative, described developing the app as the “most unique, challenging and rewarding projects that we have ever worked on and we have loved every minute of it”.

At the launch of the app, the second from Shine, were Siobhan Cotter, Rory ’Brien, Rebecca Heald and Alba Codina, all with Doodle Creative.

Kloog 2 Return to Zugopolis is available now for tablets or smartphones from the iTunes and Google Play Stores. For more information visit: kloogsocialskills.com


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