Dr. Cindy Fisher, transition teacher, independence, problem solving, decision making, autism, Down syndrome, self advocacy, personalize, strategy, communication, problems, apps for autism,
As a special education teacher with over 30 years’ experience in K-21 roles as a resource teacher, co-teacher, learning specialist, inclusion facilitator, and staff developer, my mission is to support independence and self-advocacy skills. These skills become even more important after high school when young adults are transitioning to the ‘rest of their life’, whether it’s college, employment, or participating in the community. Self advocacy skills are an important part of dealing with those tough situations. Getting through tough situations, in turn, builds that grit or resilience needed to meet life’s challenges. As students work through hard issues, they build independence, self esteem, and resilience. This is especially important as students navigate a college campus when supports that might have been available in K-12 are no longer there.
My inspiration came about when working with post-high students with autism in the community. I noticed how quickly they can spiral when faced with unexpected problems. I found that visual schedules gave them predictability and structure for some activities, but not so much when applied to decision making. Solving everyday problems can be complex; the solution depends on the context, personal preferences, and resources that are available at that moment. What works at 8:00 a.m. might not work at 12:00 p.m. There may not be someone standing nearby to ask. For many daily problems, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
I tried making flow charts, but that’s a lot of information to absorb and memorize. Then I thought, education isn’t about memorizing; it’s about accessing resources when and where needed. A decision-making strategy would be so much easier in an app. And so I began.
In designing Smart Steps, I wanted several features to personalize the app experience. After all, people vary in independence, resilience, social skills, communication, awareness of safety, reading ability and so on. I reflected on the different personalities and needs of students in my career, and I spoke with hundreds of parents, adults with disabilities, and professionals along the way. I realized that the app needed to bridge a variety of needs. For example, some people don’t want to have to talk to someone. They would rather use the app and text message when they need help. Others like to ask for help before trying, so the app provides structure to encourage them to think for themselves. Some individuals have vision issues and may have a hard time reading, so they would want a read-aloud button. Some really like certain colors, or they see better with a certain color scheme, so they would want to customize the view. Finally, the most common request was to be able to edit the content and even create decision trees. I’m happy to say that these are now available!
My vision is to bring a new level of support that is a win-win for everyone. Not only is it efficient, it’s fun. I’m excited for you to see it.
Ready to give it a try? Consider this an invitation to take some Smart Steps today with the Smart Steps Mobile app. Just click the Login button to set up your free account… It’s that easy.
President and CEO, Cindy Fisher, Ed.D.
Dr. Cindy Fisher has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education with an emphasis in K-12 Learning Disabilities, a Master of Arts degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Learning Disabilities, an Education Specialist degree in K-12 Educational Administration, and a Doctorate of Education in K-12 Education Administration. Her dissertation “Photography as a Communication Tool for Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities” bridged her interests in photography, social critical theory, self-determination, self-advocacy, and parent involvement. This qualitative study brought to light a new level of voice, the Voice of Grace, as an addition to theory outlined in Women’s Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind (Belenky, 1986). Self determination is a core value, reflected in Smart Steps Mobile.
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