App created by former JoCo teacher aims to help people with autism navigate daily challenges

Cindy Fisher, inventor of SmartSteps

Cindy Fisher, a retired Shawnee Mission special education teacher, created a smartphone app aimed at helping adults with autism make decisions and problem solve life's daily challenges. Photo courtesy Cindy Fisher.

A former Shawnee Mission special education teacher has developed a mobile app to help individuals on the autism spectrum transition into adulthood.

Why it matters: After 40 years in the district, Cindy Fisher noticed challenges individuals the autism spectrum face when transitioning out of the K-12 school system.

While support is provided until high school graduation, individuals on the spectrum might not qualify for support after they graduate and go to college or try to find work.

That’s why she created SmartSteps, a smartphone application to help individuals on the spectrum problem solve on their own.

How it works: SmartSteps functions like a flow chart, though it is presented one layer at a time, Fisher said.

It features a list of problem prompts such as “I am lost,” or “My ride is late,” or “I’m anxious.”

SmartSteps continues to narrow down the problem to either a feasible solution, or encourages the user to call an emergency contact for more help.

An example video of SmartSteps can be found below.

The details: Fisher said people can download SmartSteps for free on Google Play or Apple’s App Store.

In addition to the free version, uses can upgrade SmartSteps for $5.99 a month. With that, the app can be personalized, users can edit the content on the app and add their emergency contacts, Fisher said.

Key quote: “In school we have paras in the classrooms, somebody is always nearby,” Fisher said. “When kids with autism go to college, they may or may not qualify for support — they may be on their own. Parents are left with the choice of, ‘Ok, do I hire someone to go with them to college and pay them hourly, or do I send them to college on their own?’”