Kid in Story: Finally, a GREAT Social Story App!

Why do you want the marvelous, wonderful social story making iPad app Kid in Story? Why am I practically hopping up and down with excitement? Well...

Almost exactly one year ago, in a fit of characteristic irritation, I wrote a post on Developing Smart, Simple Social Stories Apps for Kids With Autism. About how expensive and clunky and complicated the existing apps were. About how difficult it is to find a decent app for creating the custom photo, text, and voiceover-enabled social stories my son Leo loves so much, the stories he uses to help prepare himself for transitions or trips, or to relive favorite memories.

Turns out, the development team at Locomotive Labs (formerly of Project Injini) were listening. And they didn't just make Kid in Story a great, easy-to-use social story creation app, but they went above and beyond -- including a proprietary image detection feature that "green screens" and drops your child right into their stories, either by taking an iPad photo right then and there, or by using a picture from your  photo library. Here is Locomotive Labs' own Kid in Story app demo:

Kid in Story also features several story Templates that you can drop your kids into right away, from whimsical (Are Monsters Hiding in My Room? and Faces I Make) to practical (When Is It Time to Wash My Hands?) to adventurous (What Will I See in San Francisco and At the Playground)*. And new story templates like Let's Get a Haircut! are included in app updates. Plus you can share your stories easily from inside the app, using email or the free file sharing service DropBox. And best of all, you will be able to share the stories you create with whomever you like -- grandparents, friends, therapists, teachers -- with the free Kid in Story Reader app.

Kid in Story Templates
But don't just take my word for it. Tina Cobbs, a parent and educator, let me know that:
"This app is AMAZING! I am able to use it with my son who is on the autism spectrum as well as my kindergarten class. It is easy to use and you can create books within minutes. I brought this app to the attention of our school consultant and our district purchased it as well. I have used it as social stories and/or motivation to read."
What do Leo and my own kids think? THEY LOVE IT. So, so, so much. It is so easy to use! Witness:

From within the Kid in Story app, I used the iPad camera to take a (cute) picture of Leo.

The Kid in Story Image Detection feature automatically figured out which parts of the picture were Leo and which weren't.

I dropped Leo right into the middle of San Francisco's Alamo Square! (From the "What Will I See in San Francisco?" template.)

Kid in Story also lets you create your own custom stories from scratch. I took Leo and his sisters to Disneyland last week, and wanted to help Leo get ready to revisit his happy place. So I made a new Kid in Story social story using pictures from our last trip:

I opened a blank Kid in Story template, imported this photo of Leo at Disneyland in 2011, went into the Kid in Story "History" and retrieved that cute photo of Leo above...

...and used it to make the cover of Leo's brand-new Disneyland social story. He loved it! Familiar, yet new. So comforting.

Leo's sister Mali has been enjoying using Kid in Story to insert herself into favorite worlds such as Middle Earth, using  the power of Google Images to find and import backgrounds:

Here she is in the Mines of Moria with her boyfriend Legolas the Elf.

And here she is yelling at the Balrog from Lord of the Rings, which she has longed to do since she was five years old.

It is a delight to see smart, talented developers use their powers to make the kind of apps our kids can use easily, which make them cackle with delight (India is so proud of getting to face off with that Balrog), and which are easy to share with the people in your life -- so that your child can have their social story available in all their iPad-enabled environments.

Now, let's see what we can do about getting a really helpful, easy-to-use Visual Schedule app going. I have ideas about that, too...


*Disclosure: I was invited to write four of the story templates. Erm. I hope you like them.


It was a relatively good week, that meds-free week

Apparently that last post put the whine meter arrow into the red, as my mom has asked if she can come up and help out for a bit. Which is very sweet of her. But I should definitely let you know that things are better now. It's definitely better for me to not be sick.

And here is where we are today: Leo is off Seroquel. He only spent ten days on it, total. He was agitated and upset on every one of those days, and everyone in his life noticed. His behavioral psychiatrist agreed that it was not a good choice, based on my reports (and possibly, the sounds of Leo being upset in the background while we spoke over the phone). He asked us to check back in after Leo was off meds for a week.

It was a relatively good week, that meds-free week. As the only benefits of Seroquel for Leo were soporific -- I'll take the happier boy who sleeps less, thank you. Matters were less good when he was bored or unable to find an outlet for his energy, but that is also true of his sisters. Happier Leo meant a much happier me.

We visited the allergist four days ago, which was both helpful and slightly amusing, due to that MD's perspective as a specialist: the previous week's neuro has said that Leo's hospitalization episode was not typical of a seizure -- but the allergist's take was that it was also not typical of an allergic reaction. But, the allergist also spent a full hour with us even though Leo was restless, and even though Mali (who had a tap for a nose and so had stayed home from school) kept interrupting my history with details both relevant ("anaphylaxis AND seizure, Mommy") and not (Minecraft tangents). The good doctor also said he would leave no allergy stone unturned, so Leo will be going back for skin tests, etc., and I have to call Smitten Ice Cream and ask after the ingredients in their Sticky Toffee ice cream, as that's the only food outlier for the day of his hospitalization. He also let me know that the new EpiPens have spring-loaded needles, so you don't need to slam them into the reactioneer's thigh -- just pressing down will make the injection happen, even through clothes.

Today we saw the neurologist who took care of Leo in the hospital, for the follow-up he requested. Though I came in hoping for some answers, any answers, his perspective was that at least Leo hasn't had any more seizures. And that is a good thing, hopefully something that will continue. He said Leo could come in for a follow up and EEG if we wanted, but honestly we didn't see the point. He also encouraged us to get a baby monitor instead of trading off sleeping with Leo at night, because neither Leo nor we are getting the kind of sleep we need to function under the current arrangement. He also said that there were no restrictions to Leo going to theme parks like Disneyland -- Leo just needs 1:1 supervision at the park, and since 1:1 is how our boy rolls at all times, he is good to go.

And Leo is also back on Risperdal as of today (tonight). It was the one-week point, we noted that the Risperdal hiatus was only really because of concerns about his appetite and cholesterol. And even though this past week was better, there were times when it wasn't (e.g., he shattered his iPad screen, and it wasn't entirely an accident). His appetite did not change at all off Risperdal and his cholesterol -- well, hopefully we can manage that with diet and exercise. We are trying to have Leo get in at least two hikes per day on weekends, and he is doing serious workouts (situps, wheelbarrows, etc.) during his respite sessions with Therapist V. Fingers crossed that we can revisit the happy Risperdal place that Leo mostly lived in from 2009 to 2012.

Even with all the goodness of the past ten days or so, Seymour and I are still very tired, because more plates than we can reasonably track keep spinning. He suggested after today's Leo neuro appointment that we get more respite for our boy, and I reminded him that California's autism insurance mandate means additional ABA sessions for Leo start in two days! (After months of hard work on Seymour's part, mind you.) Very excited, they are going to focus on supporting Leo's functional communication.

We are going to focus as much as we can on what makes Leo happy, on ways for him to be happy. Part of that is determining the proper medication that makes him able to tolerate just being in the world, part of that can be purchased (he asks to see the pictures of his Disneyland trip almost every day; I booked him a trip to Disneyland today), and part of that is making sure he has the space and opportunity to be his wild, wonderful, and free self. As he was able to be during an all-afternoon outing to Land's End, Cole Valley, and Golden Gate Park yesterday with beloved friends who just moved here from out of state. They are are our people, they are our herd. Leo was happy. (Mali was too, as was I.)


Coda: I forgot to mention that Iz turned 14 last month (the shot is from her party). Um what? Two days ago she went to her school's Winter Formal and was by far the most elegant person there. Where she got that style and how she grew up this fast. That latter axiom is really beating the crap out of me and Seymour of late. Holy hell. Grateful she's a neat kid, and a nice kid. She won't accept compliments about her awesomeness because I'm her mother and I "have to say that," but I'm guessing you at least will take my word for it.