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Building connections, one skill at a time.

My Role: User Research, UX/UI Design

Programs used:

A mobile app that empowers individuals on the autism spectrum to overcome social communication challenges through interactive activities, fostering improved social interactions and enhancing quality of life.

Spring 2023 | 16 weeks

View Prototype

Many individuals on the autism spectrum encounter challenges in developing and utilizing social communication skills, leading to difficulties in connecting with others and navigating social environments. This can result in feelings of exclusion, self-isolation, and have a negative impact on their overall well-being.


Existing resources primarily target younger age groups with more severe symptoms, leaving a significant gap in support for older children and teenagers on the high-functioning side of the spectrum. This lack of tailored resources limits opportunities for these individuals to develop and refine their social communication skills.


The solution developed is called "SocialMinds," a user-friendly mobile application that focuses on helping older children and teens with good verbal skills improve their social communication. It utilizes simple language and interactive activities to enhance emotion identification, interpretation, and effective communication in social situations.


Desktop Research        Interview      Empathy Map


One of the primar challenges faced my many autistic individuals is the challenge of social communication, interaction, and interpreting social cues.

Desktop Research Findings


For a comprehensive understanding and diverse perspectives, I conducted semi-structured interviews with individuals on the autism spectrum, a special needs teacher, and a parent of an autistic child. These interviews provided valuable insights into the challenges of communication barriers in educational environments.


"His IEP plan, which physically separated him from his peers, unintentionally isolated him and caused him to withdraw further".

- Jeanette,
Parent to Autistic Child

“Nothing works for everyone, but it's about getting to know what works for the student. But taking advantage of the student's interests and strengths has been effective.”


Special Education Teacher

Challenges reading and understanding social cues

Utilizing Interests and Strengths: Motivation and progress through leveraging strengths.

Social isolation due to feeling different, until case taken seriously.

Difficulty with Changes: Stability and predictability for smooth transitions.

Sensitivity to Environment: Calm setting for focus and well-being.

Key Insights

Based on user research findings, an empathy map was created to visualize the emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and needs of autistic individuals. This helped gain a deeper understanding of their experiences and inform the design process.

Empathy Map

User persona       Journey Map     Affinity Map     Precedent Analysis


User Persona

Based on valuable insights gathered from interviews, I developed a comprehensive customer journey map to visualize the touch points and pain points faced by individuals on the autism spectrum within educational environments. This mapping exercise proved instrumental in identifying the critical areas where my tool could have the most profound impact in fostering inclusion and enhancing accessibility.

Journey map

Throughout my journey map experiment, I uncovered numerous fascinating insights. By utilizing an affinity map, I effectively categorized the key pain points and needs that emerged from my research.

Affinity map

Interestingly, all of these findings revolved around the central challenge of social communication, interaction, and the interpretation of social cues. This discovery served as a pivotal moment, guiding the development of my solution towards addressing these fundamental issues.

Themes Discovered

To refine my approach, I conducted a second round of interviews specifically centered around social communication and social thinking.

Refining the Focus: Social Communication & Interests

Challenges reading and understanding social cues

His current training involves charts to help identify his own emotions.

Receives training by Habilitation for children, young people and adults

Key Insights

I identified several existing solutions that target social communication challenges but have certain limitations. Let's explore these competitors and their key characteristics:

Precedent Analysis

While these existing tools offer valuable features, they lack a comprehensive approach to addressing the social communication challenges faced by individuals with autism. Additionally, most of them seem to target a younger age group, leaving a gap in support for older individuals

This presents an opportunity to design a solution that targets this specific age group, considering their unique needs and providing a holistic approach to social communication development.


Brainstorm      Key Features     Wireframes


Interactive Exercises: Engaging exercises designed to enhance social skills such as active listening, empathy, and body language.

Social Challenge Card Game: A card game that presents social situations, promoting problem-solving, perspective-taking, and social decision-making skills.

Emotion Detector: A tool to help users develop social awareness by reading facial expressions and understanding emotions with empathy.

Mood-Boosting Exercises: Personalized exercises to regulate and uplift mood, including deep breathing, mindfulness, and engaging hobbies.

Point System: A gamified point system that rewards user engagement, unlocking badges and tracking progress.

Customization Options: Providing customization options to cater to individual preferences and interests.

Features & Functionalities




More Screens

Usability Testing

During the usability testing conducted on the SocialMind app through the platform, valuable insights were gathered to enhance the user experience and address specific user needs. The testing involved an individual on the autism spectrum, and the following observations were made:

Usability Testing

Card Game: The participant thoroughly enjoyed the card game, praising its cleverness and overall quality. However, they expressed a desire for more emotion options to choose from for certain questions. This feedback suggests an opportunity to expand the range of emotions available in the game, providing a more comprehensive experience for users.

Conversation Starter Exercise:  The participant felt that the conversation starter exercise was relatively easy and suggested that it may be more suitable for individuals with more severe autism. This feedback highlights the importance of customizing the difficulty level during the onboarding process, allowing users to tailor the experience to their specific needs and abilities

Flow & Screen Navigation: The participant encountered some frustration and annoyance when navigating screens that were not fully built out or lacked a clear flow. This feedback emphasizes the need for a seamless and intuitive user interface, ensuring that users can navigate through the app without getting stuck or confused.

Final Reflections


Throughout the development of the SocialMind app, I encountered several challenges that tested my problem-solving skills and adaptability. One significant challenge was finding individuals with high-functioning autism to interview and test the app with. This challenge highlighted the importance of building connections with relevant communities and organizations to access a diverse range of perspectives and ensure the app's relevance to the target audience. Additionally, the abundance of interesting directions to explore within the field of autism made it challenging to choose a specific path. Each individual's experience with autism is unique, making it crucial to create something valuable for a wide range of users while also addressing specific needs.

My Learnings

Working on the SocialMind app for my capstone project has been an incredible learning experience. I gained a deep understanding of the challenges faced by individuals on the autism spectrum in educational environments and the potential impact of technology in addressing those challenges. Through extensive research, interviews, and usability testing, I developed empathy and a user-centered mindset, realizing the importance of involving the target audience throughout the design and development process. This project taught me the value of adaptability, iteration, and the need to continuously gather feedback and make improvements based on user insights.

Next Steps

Looking ahead, there are several key steps to consider for the future of the SocialMind app. First, I plan to expand the user base and gather feedback from a more diverse range of individuals on the autism spectrum to ensure the app's inclusivity and effectiveness. Additionally, incorporating additional features and customization options based on user feedback, such as the ability to choose difficulty levels, will further enhance the app's value and personalization. Collaboration with experts and educators in the field of autism will also be crucial to ensure ongoing refinement and alignment with best practices. Finally, exploring opportunities for partnerships with educational institutions and support organizations can facilitate the app's adoption and impact in real-world settings.
Overall, this project has been an enriching experience, allowing me to combine my passion for technology and inclusivity to make a meaningful contribution. The challenges faced, lessons learned, and the future steps outlined will guide me as I continue to work towards creating a more inclusive and accessible society for individuals with diverse learning needs.

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