Social Detective

By Social Skill Builder, Inc.

Social Detective

Based on the You Are A Social Detective! book by Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke of Social Thinking. The app teaches children with ASD how to improve their everyday social interactions by developing their social thinking. Real life scenarios and video modelling are used to teach a child to see how others’ emotions and responses are connected to their own behaviour and how to use their eyes, ears and brain to make smart social guesses about what others are thinking or planning to do.

The app has 3 levels. Each of the levels contains explicit teaching taken from the You Are A Social Detective! book, a pre-test, and then video clips with questions.

To see a video sample of the app, visit

Social Detective

What we think

The evidence base and theoretical frameworks underpinning teaching social thinking is outlined on the Social Thinking website:

There are currently no studies of the entire Social Thinking methodology. As of July 2016, the website refers to 10 peer-reviewed studies, nine theses and dissertations, and a number of articles, papers and presentations related to various components of the Social Thinking methodology. The website also outlines six layers of evidence underpinning social thinking, such as research-based theoretical concepts (e.g. joint attention, theory of mind, social emotional learning) and conceptual frameworks (e.g. ILAUGH Model, Cascade of Social Attention). See the following link for further information: to Frameworks to Practice Social Thinkings Layer of Evidence

The app is easy to use with a simple and consistent layout across all levels. The app could be completed in three 20 minute sessions, or more as needed.

To begin play, each user needs to set up a profile. This allows the user to save play to resume at a later time and to store and retrieve performance data.

Explicit teaching is presented in writing with a male voice over and comic book style pictures. An arrow is used to navigate to the next page.

Video clips are typically less than 30 seconds in duration, with standard symbols for rewind, pause, and play functions. Videos are of real children and provide both positive and negative versions of each scenario. Questions about the videos in level 1 and 2 involve selecting one of two options (e.g. “good thoughts” or “uncomfortable thoughts”). Options increase in number and complexity in level 3. All options are displayed in writing with picture icons. When a question is answered incorrectly, the app explains why and then asks the child to try again. When a question is answered correctly, the app moves to a new video.

The app helps kids practice social vocabulary that is transferrable to real-life situations at home, school, and elsewhere. Key concepts taught include:
• Understanding Others’ Expected and Unexpected Behaviour.
• Understanding Others’ Comfortable and Uncomfortable Thoughts.
• Learning to Use Your Social Tool Box Items (Eyes, Ears and Brain) and Learning how to make Smart Guesses using your Social Tool Box.

Parents and professionals can track and share progress by emailing graphs and percentages of outcomes after playing.

The app could be used alongside the You Are A Social Detective! book by Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke. The app could also be used in a group session, as discussion can be promoted if children have different answers.

The child earns social detective tools (i.e. a coat, hat, and magnifying glass) as they learn to improve their social thinking skills. For each level, all correct answers are required to earn a tool.

Some children may be upset if they make a mistake, so it may be beneficial to prepare the child by teaching that mistakes help us learn and strategies to cope if they make a mistake.

For children aged 7 – 12. Children should be monitored by a parent or professional during play in order to wait and listen to questions and options before responding, to review key concepts, and to provide explanations and feedback.

The child must be able to manipulate a touch screen by pressing on buttons. An adult could assist, if needed.

The educational content is presented in writing with pictures, voice overs, and videos. A greater level of parent support may be required depending on the child’s Literacy level.

Video modelling is beneficial for visual learners. The videos can be seen on an iPhone but an iPad would enable better viewing.

If a client is unsure about how to answer questions about video clips, the video can be repeated.

Extra support and reinforcement of Social Skills taught may be needed for some children to transfer skills to new situations.

The app allows the child to choose their own avatar but profiles are otherwise not personalised. The game does not move forward until a button is pressed however, so children can play and take breaks at their own pace.

A setting to ‘hide’ choices when answering questions, to increase task difficulty.

A greater range of social scenarios/videos to extend learning.

Access to all sections of the app, without having to progressively unlock sections with an individual’s Avatar.

Video modelling supports parents and professionals to bridge the gap between teaching a child the definition of social thinking concepts and teaching a child what the concepts look like when applied to real life scenarios.


View in iTunes
Evidence base / Theoretical underpinning:
Ease of use:
Multi-purpose tool:
Use of motivators / rewards:
Value for money:


Age Ranges: School-Age

Curriculum: Literacy, Numeracy, Intercultural, Ethical Behaviour, Critical & Creative Thinking, Personal & Social

Language Social Skills
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