As a speech-language pathologist who has been working with autistic children and adolescents for over 20 years, I could not be more thrilled about the release of the Flummox and Friends iPad app, FlummoxVision, this week. This is the app clinicians, teachers, and parents have been waiting for. 

Why? Because my 6–12 year old clients love media. They love the iPad. But when I visit the App Store to search for excellent iPad apps for kids with social communication challenges, I find an overwhelming selection of educational apps designed for very young children and targeting everything from voice output to understanding prepositions to producing a perfect “r” sound.

And while speech therapists are grateful for these apps, there has been a gap in the offerings for our older kids with autism: well-designed social emotional apps. 

Central to any autism diagnosis is a difficulty with “social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts.” We can help autistic kids find success in social relationships when we work with them in a motivating, dynamic, natural context, supporting their social understanding with visual supports in real time. But, when we want to break down the skills and focus on social interaction using visual materials in the moment, there have been no apps specially designed to support this important work in a way that is interesting and entertaining for kids.

Now we have one. The brand new Flummox and Friends app, available free on the App Store, allows kids to interact with a team of quirky inventors who navigate the murky waters of social interaction with each other and a couple of good friends. The live-action show is engaging, entertaining, and smart: perfect for kids who love to laugh and are turned off by educational offerings that feel heavy-handed or didactic. It’s ideal for “quirky” kids who struggle with social communication and emotional regulation, whether they have a formal diagnosis or not.

My clients love the Flummox and Friends app and ask to work with it repeatedly. I have seen many kids look up in surprise, saying, “I’m just like Milo!” or “Wanda gets lost in her books just like me!” Kids are amazed to see characters depicted who share some of their unique strengths and challenges.

Without exception kids have been enthusiastic about the episode that is pre-loaded on the app, “The Party,” which focuses on why and how to stay tuned in to a group activity and the importance of keeping one’s body and brain in the group. I can then reference our shared understanding and vocabulary from the show in the moment when the kids are playing together in a social group as a positive way to remind them to practice the skill. Because they have learned the “how and why” of this skill it has meaning for them, and they understand why adults suggest they stay in close proximity and on topic with their peers while playing together. 

Many engaging activity suggestions for extending the learning concepts in “The Party” at home and school (including sample goals for teachers and clinicians!) can be found in the Curriculum Guides created by fellow Co-Creator/Curriculum Developer Liesl Wenzke Hartmann, MA, CCC-SLP and myself. The Curriculum Guides are available for purchase on the Flummox and Friends website.

The kids I work with love to turn on the show’s subtitles, which supports their language comprehension as they watch. I’ve observed that they prefer to watch the videos in “Discuss Mode,” where characters appear on the screen to ask an interactive question about what is going on in the show, a perfect feature to assist teachers, clinicians and parents who want to support this type of learning in varied settings. The kids are excited about the new video shorts that will be available for purchase on an ongoing basis. An excellent new short called “The Alternate Method” is already there, available for purchase for those who download the app. 

The team at Flummox Labs is excited to bring high quality, entertaining material to smart, quirky kids with iPads everywhere. Enjoy!

Jordan Sadler, MS, CCC-SLP is a co-creator of Flummox and Friends and a practicing speech language pathologist in Chicago.

 

Co-creator and Speech Lanugage Pathologist Liesl Wenzke Hartmann had these reflections recently on watching Flummox and Friends with one of her students. 

I watched Flummox recently with a student and really loved seeing how much he connected with it. He is a moderately autistic 10 year old boy with delayed language and processing.

But he gets humor. He always has. So ever since I first met him at age 3, I've looked for opportunities to laugh with him.

My goals for him have changed over the years as he's grown, but I've always included these two goals for myself:

  • Make sure he does not lose his “spark.” 
  • Connect with him and his love of a good joke.

He’s gone from simple fart jokes to understanding that:

"It’s kind of funny when Wanda doesn’t respond to Suzie."

"It’s really funny that the inventors make a robot friend who is not what anyone expected."

"It’s really funny that Professor Flummox is so distracted and making loud crashes."

All of this humor has reached him and piqued his interest enough to start to get him to think about how some of his actions are unexpected and might seem funny to others.

And this gentle, humorous approach continues to increase his understanding of himself and his world and those of us who are in it with him – loving him, appreciating him, laughing with him and above all trying to connect.

Now what kid wouldn’t want to leave their safe inner world and connect with us on those terms?

Do you have a story about the way Flummox and Friends has made a connection with a child you know? Tell us about it at info@flummoxandfriends.com! 


 

One of the inspirations for Flummox and Friends came from a certain kind of conversation I found myself having over and over again. At the time, I was blogging quite a bit: writing about raising a kid on the autism spectrum and sharing experiences about learning strategies worked for well for him. This stuff often came up in my conversations with other parents, regardless of whether they had a special needs kid or not.

Sometimes I would describe the types of things my son was working on - perspective taking, conversational skills, managing the expression of emotion. I talked about how he was learning it in the context of school activities as well as social skills groups of same-age kids where play is used to build these foundational skills.

Then - and this happened more times than I can count - a parent with a typical child would say something like, "Why aren't they doing this for every kid?" or "Can my kid get something like that?"

It's been pretty clear to me that families like mine with file folders full of IEP paperwork at home aren't the only ones who care about and recognize the importance of social and emotional development for our kids. 

We developed Flummox and Friends in the hopes that it would appeal to lots of different kinds of kids and families. We didn't set out to develop an autism intervention or a special education product, but instead, a comedy for families that's a springboard for learning, connecting, talking about challenges, differences, strengths...and laughing together. Because we believe that social and emotional learning should feel positive and fun.

So, I was delighted to discover a report called "Missing Piece" by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) that talks about the essential role that social and emotional learning plays for every kid; how it actually boosts learning and can transform a school culture. 

Then a few days later, I caught this wonderful Edutopia video featuring Pamela Randall, CASEL's Director of Practice talking about these issues, along with educators who are applying best practices for social emotional learning in their classrooms. 

I can't help feeling there is a movement afoot to bring social and emotional learning into the center of curriculum, into the heart of school culture, and we're excited at the possibility of being part of that!

 -Christa Dahlstrom

This trailer for kids assembles some of your favorite moments from the pilot into just a minute and forty seconds. Super fun for super fans!

Posted
AuthorChrista Dahlstrom

Thanks to ten year old superfan Tesla, who wrote and performed this wonderful original work: The Twelve Days of Flummox! Thanks, Tesla, for the best Christmas gift ever!

Lyrics:
On the 12th day of Flummox,
my best friends sent to me:
twelve good conversations
eleven chemistry beakers
ten friends a-dancing
nine frogs a-jumping
eight Milo’s cloning
seven snickersnaps
six marshmallows roasting
FIVE vol-can-ic stones!
four pairs of goggles
a key to the supply room
a very friendly robot
And my very own laboratory!

Posted
AuthorChrista Dahlstrom