Local Couple Designs Social Skills App for Older Kids

Peter and Jennifer Minelli of Durham understand first-hand the social challenges that children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), ADHD and other conditions face, particularly as they grow and want to be more independent in interactions with peers. Their experiences with their daughter, Ruby, 10, who has high-functioning autism, led them to create storysmart, a suite of social language apps designed to help children with social challenges develop social communication, social cognition and critical thinking skills.

“The social situations that are the basis for the storysmart stories are all situations that have happened, in some way or another, in our family,” says Jennifer, who is a speech language pathologist. “We wanted the app to target the anxieties and nuanced social scenarios that can be challenging for children like Ruby.”

The storysmart scenarios are geared toward children ages 6-12, allowing them to practice different roles and responses in navigating social situations at home, at school, on vacation and during group activities. When the main characters make unexpected or inappropriate choices during social interaction, the user may modify their actions, words or behaviors to bring about the best outcome

Peter, a designer with a background in graphic design and brand development, notes that storysmart has been well received by educators and experts in the ASD community

“We have heard from both special education and mainstream teachers, who really believe that they can use our app as a tool to support inclusion, reading comprehension and social communication,” he says. “We have also received some very positive support from the Duke ADHD program and the Duke Autism program, as well as from Gary Mesibov, the founder of TEACCH [Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-Handicapped Children, based at UNC-Chapel Hill].”

Learn more about storysmart at rubycubeapps.com.

Categories: Education, Exceptional Child