It’s kind of hard to remember life without tablets and smartphones, but it did exist. When the iPad was introduced a little over a decade ago, it was revolutionary. And, the autism community and special education community were some of the pioneers in developing apps.
Now, our disabled kids, regardless of their issues, can find an app for autism, speech or any other area. Apps for Autism are so common. But how do you know which ones to choose or purchase? Thankfully, I had help. This list was put together with the help of teachers (gen ed and special ed), OTs, SLPs and behaviorists. These are apps that they actually recommend to their families and clients.
It is reported that of the autistic children who use apps, that 97% of these children used an iPad at a frequency of 4.6 out of 5 days on average, and ~65% of professionals integrated iPads into their practice (e.g., as an intervention or a reward). (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
What Makes an App an Autism App?
As the saying goes, “If you’ve seen one kid with autism, you’ve seen one kid with autism.” Absolutely our kids are individuals! However, some of their skill deficits can be found across multiple populations. An “autism app” is a generic term used to describe any app that was developed with autistic kids in mind.
That being said, my son uses apps that were developed for all children.
Getting Started with Autism Apps
Before you jump in and spend a ton of money on a device and apps, it’s best to seek professional guidance. Sure, there’s no harm in a child tapping away on a device for fun.
But if learning and improving skills is your goal, you certainly want your child to be successful. Many parents spend money on these communication apps only to be disappointed later.
Autism Apps-Pictures or Drawings
Prior to starting with apps, it is important to determine the extent to which your autistic child understands the symbolic role of pictures. And, can they learn from them? On a fundamental level, many children with ASD have been shown to have a different route of visual understanding than their typically developing peers.
What I mean by this is, does your child understand symbols, cartoons and drawings? Look at this visual.
Can your child discern that all 3 of these things are the same thing? Do they understand the connection between a drawing of a toilet and an actual toilet? Do they recognize it out of context or when it is not in a bathroom?
Yet, if you are going to start trying to teach your child to communicate using apps, it is essential that you understand this concept and adapt for it.
Many communication apps and programs use drawings, much like the first toilet in the row.
However, there are apps that use actual photographs. And, there are apps that even allow for the user to upload their own photographs. So, you could upload an actual photo of your bathroom.
This is just one of many reasons why you should consult with your child’s teachers or therapists before investing in apps and devices, or asking for AT to be added to your IEP.
What an Autism App Cannot Do
A reminder that yes, today’s average child, autistic or not, spends too much time on screens and not enough time being active. Apps should be a supplement, not a substitute, to their learning and therapeutic programs.
Because an app:
- Cannot replace human contact, voice or touch
- Replace opportunities from in person teaching or playing
- Cannot help your child apply the words or skills they’ve learned to everyday real life situations
- Build social connections and situations that children experience while playing
Now, let’s move on to our list of apps. And, I am adding to it all the time. Pin it or bookmark it and check back often.
Best Apps for Autism
Over the years, I’ve had to break this list down into manageable bites for parents. It used to be one giant list that many parents found overwhelming. Now these apps for autism are broken down into what they address or do. Such as ABA, Social Skills, Executive Function, Sequencing, Working Memory, Communication and more.
- DAF Assistant – Fluency-DAF Assistant implements Delayed Auditory Feedback (DAF) and Frequency-shifting Auditory Feedback (FAF) techniques that are known to help people with stuttering to speak more fluently.
- Expressionist – AdastraSoft
- iCommunicate. – Grembe Inc.
- iConverse – Assisted Communication – Xcellent Creations, Inc.(AAC)
- In My Dreams – DevelopEase, llc
- iPrompts-StoryMaker for Social Stories – Handhold Adaptive, LLC
- Learn To Talk First Words – Preschool,Kindergarten Flashcards – Thunderloop
- Locabulary Lite – Red Mountain Labs, Inc.
- Look2Learn – AAC – MDR
- ArtikPix – Expressive Solutions LLC
- Speech Journal – Mobile Education Store LLC
- Model Me Going Places 2 – Model Me Kids, LLC
- MyTalkTools Mobile Lite – 2nd Half Enterprises LLC(AAC)
- Pocket Artic – Synapse Apps, LLC
- Proloquo2Go – AssistiveWare – AAC Full site
- Sentence Builder App – Abitalk Incorporated
- Sign 4 Me for iPad – A Signed English Translator – Vcom3D
- Sign Smith ASL Essential – Vcom3D ASL
- Smart Oral Motor – Smarty Ears
- iSpeech Text To Speech Pro – iSpeech, Inc.
- Visual Schedule – DataNull Software
- TapSpeak Button Standard for iPad – Ted Conley
- Voice4u – Spectrum Visions
- Autism iHelp – WH Questions – John Talavera
- Articulation Station Pro – Little Bee Speech 3-7 years old
Autism Apps: Sensory or Social Skills Deficits
- proloquo2Go- this must-have app provides you with alternative and augmentative communication features for children that have speech/language difficulties. The program contains text-to-speech voices, up-to-date symbols, a default vocabulary, and much more. Speech/Language therapists, teachers, and parents recommend the program for children and adults not only with autism but also for cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, apraxia, ALS, developmental disabilities, and stroke or traumatic brain injury. Proloquo is considered by many to be the gold standard in communication apps and it’s a bit spendy. But, they have offered it at 50% off on World Autism Day, so check back.
- Autism Express–facial expression and emotions are some of the most difficult things for people with Autism to interpret. This program helps Autistic individuals recognize and express their emotions through fun and easy interface games. The application is also available for free!
- Model Me Going Places–great program that models social skills to kids in various settings like the playground, mall, restaurant, doctor, grocery store, and getting a haircut. It plays through each setting with pictures, text, and audio as you flip-touch through each page and “social story”. Perfect for kids with ASD to help with social skill building and understanding social situations. Plus it is free!
- Stories 2 learn–create personalized social stories using photos, text, and audio messages for autistic kids that have difficulties with communication, transitioning, excursions, or routings. Easy to create sentences by just arranges pictures in a sentence. This program can be effective for children with ASD or others with special needs that do well with visual prompts.$13.99
- icommunicate–amazing program that allows you to customize your in any language by creating pictures, flashcards, storyboards, vital schedules, routines, and custom audio. There are 100+ pictures to get you started and you can add pictures with the google search or your camera.
- Grace–designed by Lisa Domican, a mother of two autistic children in Ireland-this application’s idea is to gracefully help autistic and other special needs children effectively communicate by building sentences from relevant images. You easily customize the app by using pictures and photo vocabulary of your choice. The idea behind Grace is to ensure the interaction of the user with the listener, and mutual understanding of the user’s real communication needs and build trust.
- Tap to Talk Education– pretty, cool “game-like” device to teach communication. Tap the picture and the Tap to Talk speaks. With over 2,000 pictures and the ability to add your own photos and sounds, this program allows you to create a very individualized album for your autistic child. Plus it is amazingly….free!
- My Talk Mobile Actions–useful app that enables people with communication difficulties to express their needs to those around them through pictures, images, symbols, and audio files including a human voice. Turns your iPad into an alternative communication device (AAC).
- iConverse– this program is more like a picture exchange board (PEC) that provides the user tiles to choose from with both audio and visual. This is perfect for the ASD child that has communication difficulties.
- Autism Tracker Lite-Autism Tracker can be life-changing for families with an autistic child. Explore Autism. Track what matters to your child and your family. Use the visual calendar and multi-item graphs to view and discuss patterns. Share individual events or entire screens with your team using Dropbox, email or Twitter (Twitter lets you set up closed groups).
- Touch and Learn Emotions-helps reinforce learning emotions of others by what their body language and expression is.
- Turn Taker-Turn Taker uses visual and audio cues to facilitate turn-taking and sharing for any child. The app also includes an illustrated social story about gameplay and sharing. This app has been used successfully with a variety of young children who find it difficult to share.
- Manners Social Stories-This app includes a 10-page social story about why it is important to be polite, and how to have good manners. The app also includes simple visual support for using polite phrases from the story.
- Autism iHelp, WH questions-Autism iHelp is a vocabulary teaching aid developed by parents of a child with Autism and a speech-language pathologist. Autism iHelp was inspired by the need for specific language intervention tools for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder focusing on their unique strengths and difficulty with expressive vocabulary.
- Social Skill Builder-2 modules in the title Preschool Playtime (Preschool & Playground), 13 modules in the title My School Day (Laughing, Table Talk, Classroom, Transition Time, Lunch Time, Jungle Gym, Team Games 1 & 2, Cubby, Eating, Playground, Hall & Line Up), 2 modules in the title My Community (Friend’s House & Restaurant), 2 modules in the title School Rules! (Hanging Out & Classroom Assignments)
- Social Comprehension-Social Comprehension is an app dedicated to helping people of all ages, particularly teens with Autism and other special needs. This will help with their understanding of various social situations, teaching them how to interact and study with their peers.
- Autism Emotion– Autism Emotion uses music and a photo slideshow to help teach about different emotions.
- Autism iHelp, Language Concepts-Autism iHelp is a vocabulary teaching aid developed by parents of a child with Autism and a speech-language pathologist. Autism iHelp was inspired by the need for specific language intervention tools for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder focusing on their unique strengths and difficulty with expressive vocabulary.
- Autism Apps– If my list isn’t good enough or big enough for you, then check out Autism Apps. Autism Apps is simply a comprehensive list of apps that are being used with and by people diagnosed with autism, Down syndrome and other special needs. It also includes links to any available information that can be found for each app. The Apps are also separated into over 30 categories, and the descriptions are all searchable, so any type of app is easy to find and download.
Communication Apps for Autism
Speech Therapy Apps
Articulation and Phonology
Speech Therapy Apps-Apraxia
Speech Therapy Apps-Auditory Processing
- Auditory Workout
- Auditory Processing Studio
- School of Multi Step Directions
- Auditory Reasoning
- Auditory Memory Ride
Speech Therapy Apps-Social Skills/Autism
Speech Therapy Apps-Language and Vocabulary
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