MagnusCards: An Autism Life Skills & Transition Support Tool

Posted on March 23, 2016
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“MagnusCards is an example of true community engagement that goes beyond what the Magnusmode application may have been intended for … [it has] resulted in something even more significant for those we support… acceptance and belonging.” These words spoken by Katherine Loveys, Executive Director of Parents for Community Living Kitchener-Waterloo, perfectly describes Magnusmode’s primary goals.

Nadia Hamilton, Founder and CEO of Magnusmode, started the social venture in 2011. Inspired by her younger brother Troy, Nadia has dedicated her life to assisting individuals with special needs. Troy, who has autism, faced a frustrating lack of options after he graduated from high school. As an instructional therapist, Nadia has worked with many families facing similar challenges. She understands their fears and frustrations. This led her to create a set of online tools that would blend proven methods of instruction with elements of game design, and cater to the unique needs of teens and young adults with autism and other special needs. Her goal is to help others learn life skills to live with greater independence and confidence in the real world.

Magnusmode’s first tool, MagnusCards, is an app featuring digital Card Decks. These Card Decks guide users through daily activities like taking the bus, using a debit card and doing their grocery shopping. The Card Decks feature step-by-step instructions with picture, audio and text. People can mimic instructions and work through activities at their own pace to help master life skills.

These guides are optimized for children, teens and adults of all abilities and can also be customized by support workers, parents and teachers. This feature enables users to personalize descriptions and use photos they are familiar with. In addition, support organizations can use MagnusCards to enhance life skills training for individuals through a simple pilot program. Use of MagnusCards alongside other accessibility tools can help enhance existing programming and provide their members with a safe and fun means of support. There are 12 categories of Card Decks that users can study: safety, travel, personal care, entertainment, food, fun, health, money management, cleaning and arts and culture. Each Card Deck provides step-by-step instructions to guide people through various life skills.

Magnusmode also partners with companies across North America. They create specialty Card Decks that provide an accessible experience for MagnusCards users when navigating products and services or in social situations like watching a sports game, ordering from a restaurant or going to the library. Current partners include Pizza Pizza, the Royal Ontario Museum, Kitchener Public Library, Centre in the Square, York University, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and more.

What have MagnusCards users been saying?

“I went shopping and followed MagnusCards to get my groceries and use the check-out system. It was great being able to go through the steps and stay on track.”  –  Bridgette W.

“I find MagnusCards very helpful. I would say my favourite category is entertainment. I love watching baseball and hockey. I’d love to get some card decks on those. If somebody had trouble looking for something, it would really help them to have cards. If we aren’t sure how to do something, we just look and see how to do it.”  –  Paula G.

“It was my first time using MagnusCards, I like it for the entertainment. It helped me with new activities. I’d like to see something about stage performance, I love watching things live on stage.”  –  Nancy M.       

“I support students with special needs in elementary school working with a variety of abilities… I was intrigued with the idea that I could quickly make social stories with relevant pictures that my students could easily view on an iPad. I have always created hard copy stories but this is very time consuming and I think the iPad will be a motivating factor…This feature will allow my students the opportunity to review their stories each day independently.”   – Pat S.

 To get MagnusCards, sign up at and download the app on Apple or Google Play app stores. For more information, please email

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