Teach Through Apps: Toca Hair Salon

Teach Through Apps: Toca Hair Salon

Age level: Preschool, Early Elementary

Description: The concept of this app is quite simple: choose a character and then give them a new hairstyle. This can include cutting hair, shaving, dying the hair, or simply combing it. Meanwhile, the character you have chosen reacts to the changes you are making to his or her hair. The app also allows you to take a picture of the hairstyle after you are done.

Skills & Modifications: One of the things I really love about this app is that it goes through the whole process of getting a haircut, which many students with autism have difficulty tolerating. It introduces it in a fun and intuitive way.

  • Identifying Emotions – Because the characters respond to their new hairstyle as the student is making changes, it provides you with the opportunity to ask your student “How do you think they feel about this?” or “Do you think they like what you’ve done?” If the student recognizes that the character is unhappy with their new hairstyle, they have the chance to change it and try to make their customer happy. The character responds as the changes are being made (instead of as just at the end) it allows the student to practice responding appropriately in the moment.
  • Cause & Effect – This goes hand-in-hand with the identifying emotions, but can be more explicitly defined by asking questions such as “What caused your character to frown?” or “What happened when you dyed her hair blue?”
  • Listening – Sometimes I will have the student follow my instructions. Depending on the student’s skill level, I will provide single-step, two-step, or three-step instructions. For example, I might say “Shave his beard,” or I might say “Turn on the water, wash his hair with shampoo, then dry it.”
  • Expressive Language – After the student gives the haircut, I will ask them “Tell me about what you did” or “Describe this hair style.”
  • Before & After – This is another form of working on expressive language. I will ask the student what the character looked like before his haircut, then compare it to what he looks like after his haircut. It’s great that the app let’s you take a picture whenever you want, without losing work or having the app reset, because then the student is able to look at a visual cue if necessary.
  • Sequencing/Recall – Sometimes I will have the student watch me give the character a new hair style. I will ask them what I did first, second, and third. You can also do this after the student has given the hair style. However, it may be difficult to restrict your student to only 3-4 steps. If I do the hair style first, I give the child a break (usually 1-3 minutes) and allow them to give a character a hair style on their own during that break.

Pros: I love that the student can choose a character. The character choices include animals and people. (One student of mine is highly motivated to give new hairstyles to the lion. He thinks it’s hilarious and finds it reinforcing enough that he will work on difficult tasks in order to play with Toca Hair Salon.) It’s intuitive and offers a variety of options around the them of the salon.

Cons: Some aspects of the app do not work smoothly. For example, when you are combing the hair, it doesn’t always smoothly go in the direction you are swiping your finger. This is frustrating for some of my students who want to use the app. I also think the app could be improved if there was an option for the character to tell what he/she wanted or didn’t want, then have the student try to make the client happy.

Cost: $2.99 You should invest in this app if: you are generalizing the skill of identifying emotions, you would like another way to get your learner more comfortable with getting his/her hair cut, or if you think your student will be motivated by the activity of changing a character’s hair.

ABLLS: C50, C54, G42, H34, H41, L24

VB-MAPP: Listener Responding 9, Listener Responding 14

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