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Talking About - Secondary School

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Talking About-Secondary School is an app from Black Sheep Press that seeks to aid the transition from primary to secondary school. The app allows for practice and rehearsal of different scenarios that may present themselves when a student is in secondary school. It is particularly useful for children on the autism spectrum but also for those who are anxious about the move to secondary.

Teacher Review

Transitioning from primary to secondary school is a daunting experience for many. For children with autism or a learning difficulty however, it can be especially difficult. ‘Talking About Secondary School’ is an app that seeks to prepare children by taking them through various social scenarios that could potentially occur when starting secondary school. The app has existed in paper form for a number of years which has been used in our school successfully; the move to a digital format is welcomed. The app can be used by parents, teachers, therapists and support staff to prepare children for the transition to secondary school.  Children could also use the app independently to help them reduce anxieties but I would suggest working alongside the child first to help them become familiar with the app. The developers have created an app that has clearly drawn upon their experience in the field of Speech and Language Therapy. Black Sheep Press, is a name that will be familiar with many Speech and Language Therapists, with their resources already been widely used.
 
Upon opening the app and pressing ‘click to begin’, you are presented with 14 situations that a student may experience when starting secondary school, these include; ‘Getting Lost’, ‘Homework’ and ‘Bullying’. Within each situation, a scenario is given with four possible responses. These include appropriate and inappropriate responses that allow you to discuss with the student what would be the right thing to do or best option in each instance. Within each scenario, you are given the opportunity to role-play and rehearse different social conversations. The settings allow you to change the text background to yellow to make it easier for children with reading difficulties or dyslexia.
 
The language used for each scenario is clear and concise with no ambiguous text, important for children with autism who can generally have difficulty with receptive language, a clearly well thought out process on the part of the developers. Within each scenario, the app allows you to take notes and record conversation that may take place with the student during a session; this is particularly useful for reflection on progress made during sessions. A nice feature is the ability to email the notes and recordings which could also be useful for a student using the app independently to email questions directly to their support worker or teacher, although I don’t think the app was designed for this purpose.
 
Having used the app with a number of students with autism currently going through transition, I found the app an excellent companion to minimise anxieties and allay any fears that they had. I would however suggest some additions to make the app even better. Not having the ability to customise and personalise the app further minimises its potential, the ability to add scenarios would enhance the app further. This could be done by creating an area whereby role-play scenarios could be filmed and added to the library on the main interface. The main reason for suggesting this would be through my experience of using the app with the children, who came up with other scenarios which I was unable to add. This would allow the student to refer back to the scenario when they needed in a similar way to referring back to social stories to help with upcoming events. Personalising the experience would be huge bonus. Additionally, I would suggest having separate male and female scenario options, as some of my male students did not like working on the female scenarios, although this is a very minor point.
 
Overall, ‘Talking About Secondary School’ is a wonderful app that I believe is a must have for all those supporting students with secondary transition. Well done to the developers who have taken great care in creating a great app.

Screenshots

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From the Developer

The move from Junior to Secondary School can bring with it extra social demands and more complicated routines.

It can be a worrying time for many children, particularly those with Autistic Spectrum Disorder or a learning difficulty.

Talking About Secondary School gives children the opportunity to discuss common situations and difficulties that they may face in Secondary School with a relevant adult - teacher/speech therapist/parent.

14 scenarios show situations a student may be experiencing for the first time.

Response pictures show ways of behaving which will encourage discussion about the ‘right’ thing to do. Encourage children to make their own suggestions.

The App can record the child’s responses and discussions.

The App can be used for role play and ‘rehearsal’ of social conversations. These are useful for small group work, and when working with children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. There is a role play icon that shows these.

For children with dyslexia or reading difficulties, there is a Text to Speech facility, the background to the text can also be changed to yellow which may also help if the teacher expects them to read the text.

The teacher/therapist/parent using the App can make notes on the App and email these together with the recordings.

The iPad can be linked to a projector for whole class work.

Thanks to Nick Scurfield (nscurfield.com) for the illustrations & the Studio at Marl Hill Farm (legalrecords.co.uk) for the voiceovers.

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