Project Description


What are communicative motor skills?

These are certain actions which communicate a need without an individual needing to express them verbally.

Problem Space

Research Done in the Space of Daily Living Skills for Children with Autism 

Level of independence has a huge impact on family quality of life. Current precedence for practicing daily living skills shows a lack of playfulness.

Physical Precedence 

Current tools used for practicing daily living skills at PALS Autism School are simple and get the job done. However, they do not encourage social interaction, playfulness, or fun. (left)

Expert: Emily Gardiner 

Daily living skills has the greatest impact on the quality of life for families who have a child with ASD. There is a current need for building independence and practicing daily living skills. Also, a need to facilitate and encourage communication and social interaction.

Interview with Parents 

Interview with Parents | Key Insights from Interviews with Parents 

“Our 7-year old is not autistic but is going to therapy for Sensory Processing Disorder. which shares a lot of the same traits. We are always on the lookout for affordable, interactive, intuitive solutions for him! I believe that tablet time is amoral- it is what you make it to be and it can work for you if you know how to user it carefully.

I want to make suer he is sticking with content he’s been given permission to play (fun apps versus brain-workout apps), plus it’s great bonding time! Kids love to show you their accomplishments, and it’s no different with apps!”

Would you rather be by your child’s side teaching them these life skills or would you rather have your child going through these scenarios and activities independently?

“Why not both! I think seeing what we have taught him played out in real life is a huge help to connect the dots. Our son is a very visual learner, so it’s often hard for him to understand verbal instruction unless he can see it too. I love to give him some freedom to learn by himself. I think kids can grow to depend too much on our cues if we don’t let them venture out and mess up in a safe space.”

Interview with Experts

Interview with Experts | Experts Advice and Key Insights from the Interviews 

At our school, we already have something that is just an object where we get the children to practice dressing skills. I like the app part that it is linked to because it makes it interactive and more motivating. If we just gave a student the toy to learn about the buttons, the toy would be fun, but it would be that much more fun if it had that app. Possible future applications could include elements of building such as Mr. Potato Head, body parts, or any sort of thing that you build and if you connected that to an app that would be super cool.


So I could say, even this is a product which is geared more towards a younger child I could say, some parents might be ok with this and some might not if their child is older. But it still might be appropriate if their child is still at this developmental level. When they are learning to read? What is that process like?

If it is possible, it would be good customization for the product to be read out loud or for the words to be highlighted without the prompts coming through so if they can’t read, it is being read to them or if they can read there is that visual of the words being highlighted or for kids that are fluent readers, they can just read without the feedback from the app. Customization would be helpful for the child’s reading style.

Product Research

Looking into similar products already on the market

Works Cited


Visualizing the various decisions in the customization process

Product Hierarchy

Creating a unified system driven by the act of storytelling


  • Story (Driving Aspect): This is the main platform which the feedback will be coming from.The main user for this part of the system is five year old Bill.
  • Toy (Supporting Element): The toy is secondary to the story in this situation. The toy is what drives the story forward. The main user for this part of the system is five year old Billy.
  • Customization (Supporting Element): The customization part of the app allows aspects of the child’s experience to be specific to their needs and interests. The main user for this part of the system is Billy’s parents.

System Interaction

Describing how all the parts are related to each other


The design consists of a customization app where the parent chooses to add an award and story where their child will interact with. The child only interacts with the story and stuffed animal so they can focus on their learning and development. The above diagram shows visually how these items work together.

Experience Map

Capturing and communicating the user interaction

Various stages and what the user will be doing and engaging in are shown in this experience map. What they are thinking, feeling and experiencing in terms of the product are also discussed. Certain moments which are key to the process are highlighted with a circle and are lined up with one another.


  1. Elements to customize the experience are easy to find with a parents busy schedule. Parents are able to make quick changes in the app in between their appointments and daily chores.
  2. Parents can help their child through the stories and interactions which are difficult. The playfulness of the product helps make teaching their kid fun again.
  3. The app prompts the child to zip up the jacket. The story does not move forward until zipping the jacket is complete. A reward is also received for completing a key interaction.
  4. Once the jacket is zipped up, the child can move forward in the story and see what other challenges will come up.
  5. Real situations like crossing the street are in the stories. These elements are interactive and show what would be the proper order of operations in a daily life situation.
  6. When the story is completed, the parent gets a notification on their tablet. this reminds them that their child has finished the story and they can give their child a reward.
  7. The parent can then reward their child with a treat the child recognizes and responds to. The child has something meaningful to look forward to every time they complete a story.

Research Methods

Various methods used in the user testing process


User Testing Results

Qualitative insights from user testing


Flow of Story

Visualizing the Various Routes in the Story

The flow map of the story lays out the decisions a child must make in order to advance in the story. When a decision is made, certain prompts happen within the story based on the decision the child has made. When a child has done the correct action, a star is received and the character advances forward. There are essentially two different paths, however, a child may not pass all of the challenges, so their journey to collecting all the starts can be viewed as a woven one.

The child’s attention alternates back and forth between the digital and the physical. For a child whom has difficulties with motor skills, an ipad helps them learn and engages them in a way that some physical objects cannot. The flow map of this interactive product allows them to practice the motor skills they have difficulty with while keeping them excited and having something to look forward to.

User Testing Cards

Testing the Sequence of Interactions

Chosen wire-frames when into POPApp to test. Many different sketches were done with slight variations of placement and the container shape which the pictures would go in. These went along with user testing cards in order to test the flow of the app.

Each square from the flow map was turned into a card. The card instructions were meant to be vague and not give away where the placement of specific buttons were. Users were supposed to read the card and figure out where they were supposed to click. This allowed for the process to be kept standardized throughout all the participants and not allow for my own bias to have an effect on their decisions.

Low Fidelity Wire-Frames

Early stages of the parent app (quick iterations)


POPApp: Initial Prototype 01

Quick hand sketched wire-frames were put into POP App (Prototyping on Paper) in order to understand the flow and transitions between wire-frames. This provided key insights into which wire-frames would make it more difficult for user to find information and how many clicks it would take for a user to get to a certain page. After this, information architecture was created out of the selected wire-frames.

Xcode: Initial Prototype 02

This was an early prototype which was tested using Xcode Storyboarding. This was a really good way to test the flow of the app because it resulted in something that gave the feel of a finished interactive product. Using Xcode, I was able to insert all my sketch files, link them, then add the buttons which I wanted people to interact with in Xcode.

Information Architecture

Based on experts feedback, some of the pages were determined not to be valuable to the experience of the child and the parent. These pages are highlighted in yellow and were removed from the design.

After removing some of the screens, the information architecture was simplified for the user and only left the essential elements which were going to help them.

Information Architecture

Visualizing the Hierarchy of Information in the Parent App


Flow of Customization

Visualizing the Various Decisions in the Customization Process

Story Customization

Parents are able to choose a story for their child and tailor the experience to their child’s needs


Establishing Shot

Creating the Fuzzy World


UI Development

Creating a Fuzzy UI to Match the Character


Visualizing the User Flow of the Child’s App

Recent Prototype of Story

Most recent prototype for the Everyday Adventures story app. After having a critique with a few interaction design professors, one of the key insights I took away was that the words from the story should be reading out. This would allow younger audiences to engage with the app and still understand what is going on.

Recent Prototype of Customization

Most recent prototype for the customization section of the app. In this section, the parents can change the reading settings, reward, story, and profile for their child. Keynote was used in order to visualize and demonstrate this section of the app to people in person.

Audience Interaction With App

It was interesting to see children and parents working through the flow of the app together. Typical children were able to go through the app by themselves and understood how to change a story and go back to story mode. All of the children used the headphones to hear the music while they were interacting with the app.

Exhibit Design Observations

The height the iPad was placed on the wall worked for children and adults. The iPad was just low enough for children to view and click it and high enough for parents and adults not needing to bend over to see what they were doing. Considering that my main users are children, with adults as support, the outcome of both these user groups interacting with the design at The Show was a good outcome.

Works Cited

Research Papers and Projects Related to this Design Project


Special Thank You

Special Thank You to These Organizations and Companies Design and Autism Advice in Developing these Projects

thank you note-001


Thank You to the People in the Process of this Design


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