Today on Day 15 we welcome Caroline Keep as our guest contributor to the Appvent Calendar. An educator, data scientist, national TES award-winning teacher and fellow FED member, Caroline has many accolades under her belt. Her current work sees her as a Doctoral Researcher in developing digitalisation tools in education using ML/AI and as a part-time digital/science teacher. Learn more about Caroline, her many awards and her digital footprint here.
Thanks for visiting the Appvent Calendar. I’m going to be doing the section that is an app created especially for neurodivergent people today. Since many of you are aware that I have autism and ADHD, I thought that this year, rather than just choosing a learning app, I would choose something to support our autistic teachers and students. So today’s introduction is Molehill Mountain. An app that personally I have found brilliant and have also seen students find really, really useful too.
We frequently advise several strategies to help young people cope with stress during test season and throughout the year. To ensure that young people have strong mental health and are in a good position to learn, use breathing exercises or headspace. However, a lot of these apps are inappropriate for autistic people. To relieve tension and anxiety, we require specific techniques. So Molehill is great because it is one of the few apps created with autistic individuals in mind. Molehill Mountain is used to help autistic people understand and self-manage anxiety based on data from studies on anxiety in autistic people. It was created by Autistica, a UK charity with researchers from King’s College London, developed and tested by parents and people with autism.
What is Molehill Mountain?
Molehill Mountain is an app to help autistic people understand and self-manage anxiety. It does this by having a really simple interface. That basically lets you monitor and track where your anxiety is coming from. It’s not too complex and easy enough for a teenager to get their head around and adults/parents.
Why this app?
In comparison to 3% of non-autistic children, 42% of autistic children suffer from anxiety problems. More than half of autistic people have experienced anxiety. Researchers and clinicians created Molehill Mountain to give autistic people evidence-based strategies to manage their anxiety. The Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) methods used in the app are supported by research. Professor Emily Simonoff has modified them specifically for autistic persons. Professor Simonoff is a well-known specialist from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience.
Into the details…
The Molehill consists of four buttons on the front page. One for general check-in, this is basically a scale that says you are highly anxious or not anxious at all. This is useful if you’re like me you can’t always interpret whether you are a 1 to 10.
The second button is called worry mountain. It’s a little area that allows you to worry about the things you are going to worry about…. but only for a limited amount of time. Mine currently allows me to worry for 30 seconds. During this stage, it gives you tiny little bubbles to pop out there, and you’ve preloaded it with the things that worry you.
The third button is a breathing exercise. But possibly one of the most brilliant breathing exercises I have ever come across. I cannot, and most young autistics I know who use this app cannot either, use other apps as they are complex breathing patterns or give too much specific detail regarding what you should and shouldn’t be doing during a breathing process. It just feels too complex. Especially when you’re already anxious and about to burn out.
This is great because the breathing exercise basically talks you through breathing. It’s 120 seconds of… breath out for four, and hold, followed by breathing in for four and hold. It gives you a really good place to concentrate when things are tough. Very good if you had to send a student outside to calm down.
Finally, the fourth button has an emergency “I need help right now” option. It goes directly to your breathing tool, and you can add an emergency contact there as well. It also has the details for confidential services such as ‘shout text’ and the Samaritans built in. Everything you need for when it’s become really unbearable.
What are the key benefits of Molehill Mountain?
Molehill Mountain allows you to track your anxiety over a long period of time, which is really great because it’s not too invasive of an app. This helps to build up a picture where you can see what is causing anxiety or causing a student anxiety so you can put in strategies to help prevent that.
Asking autistic students what worries them often is difficult because it’s hard for them to articulate. You can match this to the times of certain events or transitions, which means that you can specifically target interventions. This is because it tracks all of this and then displays it in a nice, easy to understand format.
Examples of uses?
Some great uses are the tips and tools used to help you manage any anxiety. Molehill uses Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and the ABC Model (Antecedents, Behavior, Consequences) to help you focus on comprehending the interconnectedness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily experiences, and behaviours. Knowing your anxiety triggers and how you might be able to modify your responses to lessen your anxiety. Basically, allowing you or a student to understand what is going on with you!
The Fear Ladder helps you to address your fears in a comfortable way. It helps you to gradually face your fears over time until you feel less anxious about them. Totally useful for getting over something that feels intimidating, and many mini tips are given in a staged way, so no one feels overwhelmed!
How does it help teachers and learners?
Having a good idea of how to manage anxiety in autistic students, I think, is pretty critical. As the stance above shows, it is an incredibly big problem, with 42% of autistic children suffering from anxiety problems. So maybe it’s time that we started having specific suggestions for techniques for autistic children. Apps that are designed specifically for them.
I would recommend this app for a very young child, but for a teenager or adult, it’s absolutely perfect. It’ll help young autistic teens be able to manage the process of exams, of everyday school life and give some specific guidance to you as a teacher.
Instead of having a child who is finding it difficult sitting outside the classroom awaiting a SENCo, now you can suggest that they work through some of the techniques in the Molehill. It might just get them back in class quicker. I’ve had good success with this with autistic students and myself, so if you are an autistic teacher, this is a really good way to get through the day and be able to identify the pinch points where you might need a bit of additional support.
Where can you learn more?
You can learn more at https://www.autistica.org.uk/molehill-mountain
Or download the app on the App Store or Google Play store under Molehill Mountain.