Stand Tall is a fun and free game designed to help young people with intellectual disabilities learn how to manage their money. It’s currently being put through its paces by students in some Wellington secondary schools, write Penny Harding.
Stand Tall challenges its players to think about their day-to-day spending choices. The idea is to dodge tricky situations like getting to the end of the week and finding there’s no cash left for dinner, or enough money for a movie but no popcorn.
IHC developed the app with online gaming company InGame and involved young testers who were neuro diverse, autistic or had an intellectual disability to give feedback on the real-life scenarios.
To start, a player chooses their avatar, or character, and makes choices and spends money. The setting changes in line with their choices from their flat to the supermarket or the gym and the total in their ‘wallet’ reduces.
Players can play at their own pace and repeat stages if necessary, and a voiceover option is also available. The game is designed to be played by individuals, but it also works well as a group activity.
Students at Wainuiomata High School and Hutt Valley High School are the latest to try the app. Phil Clarke, IHC Head of Library and Information Resourcing, says students ran through the grocery shopping scenario together on a big screen and then explored the game on their own devices.
“The kids loved it, and they loved creating their own avatar,” added Head of Learning Support at Wainuiomata High School Emily Goldie.
She says they were impatient for the group session to be over so they could have a go. But with 18 students all wanting to play at the same time it proved too much of a challenge for the school’s wi-fi connection.
“They needed help initially setting it up but, once they understood, it was really easy to use. The students ranged in age from 13 to 21 years. Obviously the older students got more out of it because that is who it is aimed for.”
Emily believes Stand Tall is a great tool to be used in conjunction with other teaching – at home with parents and in supported living with a carer – and it tackles the hardest transition: leaving school.
Heather Lear, Head of Tautoko, the Supported Learning Centre at Hutt Valley High School, says not all of her 15 students were familiar with gaming scenarios but really enjoyed exploring the app and being immersed in a digital world where they had to make their own decisions.
“We did it in small groups and it was good to see some of the students being supported by the more capable ones.”
The keener ones were inclined to race ahead, she explained.
“There is a danger of students clicking through and not actually thinking about it. I have been looking for something similar to this for a while. It’s really hard to find life skills stuff pitched at the right level.”
InGame app designer Melanie Langlotz says the testers helped developers to understand some of the struggles faced by disabled young people and to how to meet their needs.
Annie Cunnington, 23, from Bayswater on Auckland’s North Shore, was a tester at the first development workshop.
“I loved how vocal she was,” said Melanie. “She would tell us what worked for her in the game and what she liked.”
After the workshop, Annie was offered work creating bodies, hairstyles and accessories for some of the avatars.
“It has been an awesome experience,” said Annie, who is now studying for a Bachelor of Creative Technologies – Game Art degree at Media Design School in Auckland.
There was more great feedback from Louis Hall, 19, from Northcote in Auckland, who has his own game review channel on YouTube.
“He is quite phenomenal in how he can pick the game apart. All his suggestions made sense,” added Melanie.
Louis was offered a job providing the voiceover for one of the Stand Tall characters, Jono, the difficult boyfriend of one of the flatmates.
“I finished school two years ago and I have done a Level 5 course in radio journalism at Manukau at the New Zealand School of Broadcasting,” he said.
The Holdsworth Charitable Trust donated $20,000 in seed funding for Stand Tall, and $75,000 was contributed from the Ministry of Social Development fund for initiatives to help people with disabilities stay active and connected in their communities after COVID-19.
Article by Penny Harding, IHC New Zealand.
Stand Tall can also be downloaded free on Google Play and Apple iTunes.
INTERFACE June 2023