Apps for Children with Autism

by Hillary Goldthwait-Fowles

Author Note: April is Autism Acceptance Month. It is one thing to be aware of Autism, it is another to accept it’s diversity and beauty. Take the time to listen to the Autism community and provide support and love so that children with Autism come to recognize their own brilliance.

The iPad has been a HUGE innovation for learners with varying abilities, but has really improved access and skill acquisition for learners on the Autism spectrum. Leveraging apps with intention, for a specific use is critical.  Any tool should be leveraged with the purpose of improving the quality of life or access to learning for any individual. As we say here at Empower the Learner, apps that support challenges and enhance strengths are where it’s AT! That being said, this list is a breakdown of apps that I’ve used with with learners who are on the Autism spectrum that have improved many outcomes, the greatest of which is independence and agency.

Here is the list- in no particular order:

Area of focus: AAC/Communication/Literacy

Rationale: Robust communication apps to be leveraged in acquisition of language or language retrieval.

Features: Core word standard vocabulary, customizable pages, adaptive grid layouts.

Area of focus: All

Rationale: Use Clips for explicit teaching or video modeling or for student demonstration of understanding.

Features: Easy to use interface, text to speech support, add stickers and emojis for a fun experience.

Area of focus: Literacy

Rationale: The movable alphabet and sensory components help to make teaching spelling and reading words engaging and fun

Features: Multi-sensory opportunities to practice reading and spelling skills, pre-made word lists, custom word lists, voices, size, contrast of letters.

Area of focus: Social Stories, Storytelling

Rationale: Leverage as a tool to make social stories,or student created stories

Features: Simple interface, embedded text to speech, low tech PDF as a backup.

Area of focus: All

Rationale: Make lessons, social stories, or use as a tool to create student works.

Features: Platform independent, collaborative, add video, text to speech support, shared community contains books to use with learners.

Area of focus: Scheduling/Organization

Rationale: Visual cueing can be a highly effective tool to help persons with Autism stay organized or on task. Visual cues may also help with reducing anxiety around transitions and unexpected changes in routine.

Features: Customizable grid, add sequences, customizable icons.

Area of focus: Social Thinking/Social pragmatics.

Rationale: Leverage as a therapeutic tool to teach social thinking skills to individuals who struggle to understand social thinking concepts in a game-based, choice driven manner.

Features: The app requires a subscription. Once subscribed. practitioners can assign content to learners, monitor progress, observe and assess. Live animation gives this app a realistic feel. The characters are engaging and tasks appropriate for learners who struggle to understand social thinking concepts.

Area of focus: Self-regulation, sensory regulation

Rationale: Leverage sensory apps for learners who require visual or auditory sensory input as a calming/regulation tool.

Features: Various lights, sounds, duration for a customized experience. Easy to use interface and cause and effect allow for ease of use.

Area of focus: Emotional Regulation

Rationale:Leverage these apps as companions to The Zones of Regulation self-regulation and emotional control curriculum to track behavior and teach skills.

Features: Game based opportunities to practice identifying the zones, visual supports, easy to use interface.

Do you have a favorite app that you use with your child with Autism? Leave a comment below! 

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