While apps are no substitute for therapy, they can help a kid on the autism spectrum with everything from motor skills to motivation. They can also help with the kind of visual learning and positive reinforcement that is so essential for ASD kids. Oh and they’re also lots of fun. Here are a few of our favourite apps for kids with autism.
Learning for kids with autism can be improved by breaking problems down into their most basic parts. This multiple-choice game is visual and interactive. Adhering to a fundamental principle of applied behavioural analysis (ABA), the app provides lots and lots of positive reinforcement. Geared for kids aged two to four, it teaches such concepts as colours, shapes and size comparisons. Special features include the capability to add your own voice so your “toddler can learn everything in mommy or daddy’s voice.”Photo: iTunes
This augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app helps provide a voice to ASD kids with verbal challenges. Its customized symbol grids allow users to form straightforward sentences by touching pictures and symbols. Starting with a vocabulary of 200 to 400 core words, this app is designed for beginners as well as advanced users. It is easy to customize the symbol grids, and there are accessibility features for users with fine-motor or visual impairments. Recommended for therapists as well as teachers, peers, siblings and parents, Proloquo2Go offers support seven days a week, free e-learning videos and PDF tutorials on how to use the app.Photo: iTunes
Social stories are one of the most effective teaching tools for kids on the spectrum, who benefit from mentally rehearsing routines and upcoming events. This app puts your child in the centre of their own narrative. A community library of 20 story templates, such as “When Is it Time to Wash my Hands?” or “At the Playground,” are instantly personalized when your child’s photo is added to the story’s background, thanks to a kind of green-screen technology. Kid in Story is designed with ASD kids in mind and it helps model task analysis and expected social behaviours as well as reinforcing routines.Photo: iTunes
Even though these apps are specifically designed with ASD kids in mind, some of the best one can be enjoyed by everyone. Toca Life: Hospital fits into that category; it’s all about putting “kids in the director’s seat to make up their own stories.” This app is interactive, features appealing characters and role playing, and mixes social stories with old-fashioned game-playing. Played alongside parents, therapists or peers, the app teaches language, turn-taking, social interaction, pretend play, flexible thinking and creative expression. The user gets to take on a variety of roles—from performing surgery to cuddling newborns to caring for a sick friend.Photo: iTunes
This is another app that’s likely to appeal to everyone: A cranky dog in an armchair, who giggles when you tickle its paws, grumbles when you poke its belly and burps on command tends to be irresistible. But Talking Ben, as well as pals like Talking Tom Cat, provides something that’s often rare for kids on the spectrum—a fun-loving and patient playmate. This app also encourages ASD kids to stay focused on essential everyday skills like speech—Ben repeats what’s said to him in a funny voice—and learning appropriate facial expressions. Kids can also practise telephone conversations, as Ben dutifully answers a ringing phone and is provided with a kind of small-talk script.Photo: iTunes
This app is especially useful for ASD kids who face challenges making conversation. It breaks down the kind of skills many of us take for granted when we engage in conversation, by presenting “the auditory pattern of conversation in a visual format.” Conversation is taught in its component parts with 40 theme-based modules, such as holidays, water and animals. Random conversations combine themes. Users can choose to initiate or respond to conversations that can be as brief as four to eight exchanges for beginners. Other features include group or one-on-one settings and the capability to use your own image in conversations.Photo: iTunes
This app provides the kind of step-by-step prompts—schedules, checklists, sequences—useful for reducing anxiety about change, something that often affects kids on the spectrum. Visual boards detail routine activities like getting dressed, doing chores and finishing homework. Activities can be edited to include personal images or videos, and you can also customize rewards. First Then Visual Schedule (FTVS) provides the kind of strategies for coping with transitions or surprises that are particularly beneficial for ASD teens beginning to learn to manage and organize their daily lives: It provides them with structure and a sense of autonomy.Photo: iTunes