Kids love their devices. Basic web-enabled devices – laptops, smartphones, and tablets – open a universe of learning for children. Kids with autism spectrum disorder can have a high degree of digital readiness, and find device learning second nature.
Autism refers to a set of complex disorders in brain development. A government survey in November 2015 revealed one in 45 American kids aged 3 to 17 have an ASD diagnosis. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey estimated 1 in 68 has autism.
Children on the Autism spectrum often struggle in:
- SOCIAL INTERACTION | How do two or more people relate? It’s observed one-on-one, in small groups, or large groups. It’s where institutions, rules and systems take root.
- REPETITIVE BEHAVIORS | How do they manifest in development? Repetitive behaviors can include hand-flapping, head-banging and rocking.
- VERBAL AND NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION | How do we relate with and without words? We send and receive information through verbal and non-verbal cues. It could be face-to-face, through body language, written word, visuals, and more.
We’ve found these apps helpful for children diagnosed with autism. They can also aid their parents, teachers and therapists.
Learn more about these as well as what the creators and developers had to say when we reached out to them!
This site offers a set of apps designed to build student skill sets. Categories include Animals, Anti-Bullying, Colors, Letters, Numbers, People, Shapes, Time, and Words. The Discreet Trial Training apps incorporate findings from Dr. Brown’s years of experience in psychological therapy. When reached for comment, they had this to say:
At Dr. Brown’s Apps, we have built our app design on over 40 years of Dr. Brown’s psychological therapist experience in a clinical setting.
Users identify feelings from a set of emotions. Then, they move into a coping strategy as the next step in self-regulation. Download your own photos to customize animated, interactive lessons that focus on social relationships. Users learn to read verbal and non-verbal cues, and take part in conversations. We asked them to comment further on their apps and they commented:
We use high quality animation and engaging characters and stories, to effectively deliver the essential elements of social and emotional learning to a population that have difficulties with understanding social cues, or have trouble with managing their emotions.
Kids learn how facial expressions reveal what people feel, with guidance from Rufus Robot. “The inclusion of reward sets and breaks in our apps will keep the child’s interest while he or she learns,” said Dr. Holly Gastgeb, Rufus Robot President and CEO. Dr. Holly Gastgeb also shared:
Research has repeatedly shown that children respond to mobile devices at a young age. Our goal is to capture some of that enthusiasm and direct it in a fun, yet educational, manner. Emotions includes a brief fingerpainting activity that will keep the child’s interest while he or she learns.
Creators David and Abbie Cort develop apps for all children. They have an interest in those for kids with special needs. The Look in My Eyes series keys on social skills, such as practicing eye contact. CBS’ 60 Minutes has featured FizzBrain apps.
Fizzbrain also shared their thoughts and feelings regarding their featured apps:
FizzBrain is a mom-and-pop studio committed to bringing the latest and very best of educational practices into the world of apps. Between the two of us, Abbie and I have over 50 years’ experience teaching in elementary, secondary and special education classrooms, and we draw on all this experience and training as we design our apps. […] We started FizzBrain in order to develop quality iPad/iPhone applications for all children based on best teaching practices. Our “Touch and Write” series has received numerous commendations and awards.
Social Skill Builder transitioned award-winning CDs for ASD students to apps. Interactive software includes video scenarios that encourage users to interact with peers. The popular Social Detective app engages a student’s sense of adventure and problem-solving.
Among the glowing testimonials for these programs is this one from from an ABA Therapist from the Penn State Austism Conference:
I worked with ASD students on social skills and your My School Day CD as well as the Social Detective CD are my go to materials. I have both in CD form and am glad they are now available in apps. Easier to transport. The kids really love them especially the Social Detective App and really learn so much from them.
Integrated Listening Systems’ headphone technology had relaxing effects on kids with autism. Headphones present a challenge, though, for those with tactile sensitivity. Enter Dreampad, a pillow with psychoacoustic technology. Dreampad looks and acts as a pillow, but does much more.
A music app produces calming music from within. It creates gentle vibrations to trigger the user’s relaxation response. It shows improved sleep habit for those on and off the spectrum. Improved sleep can impact daytime behaviors for children with autism.
iLs developed the Dreampad after observing the powerfully relaxing effect of the iLs headphone technology on children with autism. Tactile sensitivity is very common with autism, and many of the children couldn’t tolerate iLs headphones. We learned quickly that the Dreampad not only reduced anxiety, but improved sleep habits with the vast majority of those on (and off) the spectrum.
For parents, teachers and therapists
This evaluation tool tests a child’s development first. It includes an optional video evaluation and detailed results to share with a pediatrician. “Providing parents with a validated path to early answers not only saves money and time in appointments, but (also) allows parents to remain focused at work,” said Brent Vaughan, Cognoa CEO. Brent Vaughan also stated:
Cognoa for Employers is putting the power of early screening in parents’ hands while giving employers the opportunity to provide competitive health benefits beyond normal employee expectations. With developmental delay affecting one in six U.S. children and autism affecting one in 68, it is no wonder that developmental milestones and potential delays consistently rank as top concerns for parents.
Touchautism.com | iTunes (free)
Visual supports, such as stories, give direction instruction on social skills. This app provides that for kids with autism. It includes social stories to teach what to expect in an array of situations. Caregivers can create, print, and share customized social stories and visual schedules. The Social Stories Creator and Library folks had this to say:
Children with special needs often need more direct instruction of social skills. Teaching social skills to any child may be easier and less stressful when visual supports, like social stories are used. The social stories found in this app explain accurate social information and ensures that your child will know what to expect in different situations.
The TOBY (Therapy Outcomes By You) app contains an extensive curriculum. It includes solo on-screen and partner on-screen tasks, and real-world tasks for early intervention. The app collects data for performance reports on a child’s activity from the comfort of home.
Autism West is committed to supporting families to provide the best opportunities for their child. Our TOBY app is a revolutionary, unique way for parents to become empowered to implement therapy at home. It is best-practice and evidence-based, developed in conjunction with Curtin and Deakin Universities.
Sensory issues might be the most misunderstood aspects of life on the spectrum. This play-based app provides an exploration of challenges and strengths in seven sensory experiences. The app environment provides hidden tools that shed insight to real-world sensory-environment strategy.
When setting out to create this app, our team at Spectrum Idea Lab identified that there was a significant lack of understanding about the sensory issues that often accompany autism, amongst families, teachers, and even those on the spectrum! So we created this exploratory, play-based app which immerses users into seven sensory experiences that demonstrate some of the sensory diversity found on the spectrum, including both strengths and challenges.