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Post by:

Vanessa Castañeda Gill

Created on:

August 11, 2021

Why Social Cipher?

Hi! I’m Vanessa, and I’m the CEO + Co-Founder of Social Cipher. We build space-pirate adventure games and software for neurodivergent youth ages 10-15 and the professionals who work with them. I started this work with my team because of my own experiences growing up as an autistic teen and young adult. I suffered from confidence and self-image issues and struggled to understand where I belonged. To have a game like Ava, where I could have safely built skills while seeing my authentic self portrayed, would have meant the world.

Our game series follows the journey of Ava, an autistic young star mapper, as she navigates the galaxy using her trusty space grappling hook. She encounters a colorful collection of space pirates on her adventures, each one with its own story for Ava to discover and engage with. The team and I are beyond excited for Ava’s story to reach young people everywhere and to help each and every one of them reach their goals for social-emotional success.

Who We Are.

We are honored to day that our autistic-led team includes game developers, artists, social-emotional learning experts, and autistic voices working together to create this breakthrough product in the Edtech space.

Social Cipher is a team made of 40% autistic individuals along with myself, an autistic founder. From day one, we’ve developed and continue to develop our games based on the needs and voices of the neurodivergent community. To date, we’ve playtested, piloted, and interviewed nearly 300 self-advocates, youth, and professionals in the neurodivergent community, and we have no plans to stop there.

As someone who masked for years and faced a ton of challenges with my own identity because of it, it’s immensely important to us that we do not encourage masking or erasing of neurodiverse traits in our characters or players. We also utilize identity-first language in our game and written materials and use the framework of the social model of disability to inform our intentions as a company.

We are honored to say that our autistic-led team includes game developers, artists, social-emotional learning experts, and autistic voices working together to create this breakthrough product in the Edtech space.

Our Mission.

Social Cipher’s core mission is to represent and empower neurodivergent youth, facilitating their development of different social-emotional learning competencies through the engaging power of video games.

Our game and curriculum are not based on teaching kids how to emulate neurotypical behaviors and rewarding them for their ability to assimilate. Instead, we believe that developing social-emotional learning skills, such as the CASEL competencies, helps youth to foster a healthy sense of self as a neurodiverse individual and construct positive boundaries.

We believe that it is important for neurodiverse youth to feel respected for who they are, while also learning techniques for recognizing and communicating their own needs, even when everyone’s communication style may be different.

With these core goals, we are excited to have a game that helps neurodiverse youth see themselves positively and find their place in the world.

Our game is out now, and we’d love for you to be a part of this journey with us. You can get your copy of Ava today and learn more about our work here!