User Spotlight: Cari Neal

At SiLAS, we know how talented and passionate our users are. That is why we are committed to showcasing these amazing educators and how they’re using SiLAS to improve student learning!

This post’s User Spotlight is Cari Neal. Cari is a Special Education teacher for students with emotional/behavioral challenges at Huntington County Community School Corporation (HCCSC) in Huntington, Indiana.

Here are 5 questions with Cari Neal:

1) What were your first thoughts after seeing SiLAS?

Upon first seeing SiLAS, I knew it was something that would engage my students and allow for a great deal of flexibility to meet our needs. 

2) How are you using SiLAS with students?

Students participate in weekly lessons utilizing the SiLAS curriculum. After completing the lesson, students enjoy making animations. Animations are shared with others in a variety of ways. We have SiLAS Skills Showcase posters hanging in the hall of the school with QR codes for students to scan and view. We have hosted a SiLAS Celebration in which district leaders were invited to preview student animations from a variety of topics. Animations are uploaded to YouTube and links are sent out for parents to enjoy.

3) What do your students and parents think about SiLAS?

Students LOVE SiLAS and enjoy being the star of the show when we preview them as a class. Parents enjoy receiving the animations and being able to discuss with students what they have been learning. Parent sheets are now being utilized to send home as well.

4) What has been your favorite SiLAS story or experience? 

I have enjoyed seeing the students’ excitement when they are working on their SiLAS lessons. It is amazing to see them work together to create a final project.

5) What do you think other teachers should know about SiLAS?

The possibilities are endless with SiLAS. Just take the first step and give it a try.

Thank you to Cari for sharing the amazing ways he is using SiLAS in the classroom!

The Powerful Use Of Avatars In Social And Emotional Learning

SiLAS is revolutionizing the manner in which professionals teach social skills to their students! SiLAS is providing a fusion between the fields of edtech and social/emotional learning (SEL).   One of the ways we are redefining SEL with edtech is by using SiLAS to teach facial emotion recognition to children with autism. This is done by using 3d avatars and a formalized, step by step, curriculum.

Social (pragmatic) communication disorder (SCD) is a new diagnostic category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5). SCD is characterized by a persistent difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication that cannot be explained by low cognitive ability. Symptoms include difficulty in the acquisition and use of spoken and written language as well as problems with inappropriate responses in conversation. The disorder limits effective communication, social relationships, academic achievement, or occupational performance. Symptoms must be present in early childhood even if they are not recognized until later when speech, language, or communication demands exceed abilities (

Bernadette Mullen

It is critical that educators properly evaluate students with social pragmatic disorders! Standardized testing is a key component of the assessment in terms of planning an appropriate therapeutic program.  Most language assessments focus on concept language and not on social functions or on the interpretation of social language which is needed to assist students with SCD . That’s why, with the help of Bernadette, we built SiLAS to optimize  what we already know about using virtual reality and avatars to teach students with SCD:

  • Virtual reality represents real-life experiences in a safe, controllable manner that allows for repeated practice and exposure (Freyberger, 2017).
  • Virtual reality can be adapted to the current level of the child and develop at different levels, leading to a scaffold learning approach (Cobb, Eastgate, Glover, Kerr, Neale, & Reynard, 2002).
  • The number of cues in the environment can be manipulated (Cobb et al., 2002).
  • There is likelihood of instructor fatigue in traditional programs but not in computerized programs (Freyberger, 2017).
  • Students are motivated to participate and there is a likelihood of generalization .
  • Virtual reality has previously been shown to improve social recognition including affection recognition and TOM in young adults (Kandalaft, M., Didehbani, D., Krawczyk, T., & Chapman, 2013).

SiLAS incorporates the best practices and provides the tools needed to help teach students with SCD how to recognize facial emotions. As Bernadette continues to do work in this promising field, we continue to be committed to keeping SiLAS on the cutting edge by making SiLAS the best it can be!