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Intro and iMums Reviews by Mary Mahon
The Appy Ladies and Special Apps, Special Kids Reviews by Amy Vinson Taylor
When the iPad first debuted in 2010, I don’t think anyone really understood what a huge impact this technology would have for children with special needs. Many children with different needs have been helped by the use of iPads, but probably the most publicized is the use of iPads by children on the Autism Spectrum. Our children often relate really well to electronics, sometimes too well! iPads can be a really useful tool but that doesn’t mean we should just hand them an iPad and let them get on with it. We still need to be the parent and choose which apps they are allowed access to, and how much iPad time is appropriate for our child. This will vary from child to child. If a child uses an iPad app as his main means of communication he needs access to that app all the time (as we have access to our voices), but a child doesn’t need to be able to play games 24/7, no matter how educational they are. My own son loves electronics and has learned a huge amount from his iPad—talking about games he plays has been a great way getting him to interact with and connect with his peers. But if he was left to his own devices he would be on the iPad all day so we do set rules on what he can play and when he can use it.
Our children are all unique individuals, so there is no one app that will be suitable for every child with Autism. I am listing some of The iMums favorite apps that are either designed specifically for children with Autism, or that help with skills that our children often have difficulties with. I encourage you to also check out other apps we have reviewed that are suitable for a particular skill you are working on, as there are many, many more great apps—too many for me to list in one post.
Specifically for Developed for Kids with Autism
TOBY (Therapy Outcomes by You) Playpad by Autism West is designed for children under 7, who are not yet receiving specific interventions for Autism, or are in the early stages of therapy. It is a comprehensive Early Intervention Program designed for home use with children with Autism and includes both on and off iPad activities. Each day, TOBY suggests a list of activities to do, and this changes as the app adapts to the child’s progress.
Go Go Games by Go Go Games Studio includes 3 games: Build-a-train, Wheels and Roads and Out of this World, each has 6 levels. Children with ASD often have “tunnel vision” honing in on one specific feature of an object, and this app helps them to learn to look at multiple features of an object. It is also useful for working on pattern recognition, matching and fine motor skills. It is a great deal at only $3.99
See.Touch.Learn. Pro by Brain Parade is an incredibly flexible learning tool. It contains over 4,000 pictures and over 2,000 pre-prepared lessons. It also allows you to add your own images and easily create your own lessons. It was designed to be used for ABA therapy, but can also be used to teach a huge range of skills. The Pro version contains all lessons and libraries, a free version is also available where you can buy specific libraries as in-app purchases.
Kid in Story Book Maker by LocoMotive Lab is designed to make it easy to create your own stories starring your child. For many children with Autism, social stories can be a very powerful tool to help them deal with new situations and experiences. The app includes 12 ready-made templates for stories, plus you can add your own. It makes it easy to add photos of your child or other family members into the story.
The Mighty League Vol. 1 The Terrible Taunting by Geek Club Books is an interactive book app based on the real life experiences of a boy with Asperger’s. It promotes autism awareness , encourages acceptance and understanding, and talks about tools that those in the spectrum can use to manage their day.
Avokiddo Emotions by Avokiddo is a delightfully interactive app featuring a giraffe, zebra and a shy and sleepy sheep. Identifying emotions can be difficult for children with Autism and this is a fantastic app to use to explore emotions in a variety of contexts. As children play and explore the app the animals are very clear in their emotions, and like or dislike of specific objects.
Fine Motor Skills
Injini Child Development Game Suite by NCSoft was developed to help young children with cognitive, language, and fine motor delays. It features 12 different games, each with many levels. It is best suited for toddlers and preschool aged children and is a very comprehensive app to help them with fine motor and language skills, understanding of cause and effect, spatial awareness, memory and visual processing.
Bugs and Buttons by Little Bit Studios is a unique app that works on many cognitive skills including patterns, sorting, memory, mazes, counting, and letters. It includes 18 engaging games, with fantastic graphics. The games encourage visual tracking (great for reading skills) and incorporate many fine motor movements (e.g. point, pinch, isolated finger patterns, use of both hands). This app is a great brain builder and an even better motor builder – truly an OT’s delight! At only $2.99 it is a real bargain.
Speech and Language
ConversationBuilder Deluxe by Mobile Education Store works on conversational skills, which are hard for many of our kids. It teaches the nuances of conversation, teaches ways to initiate a conversation and how to keep the conversation flowing naturally. Learning how to have a real 2-way conversation with your peers is a really important life-skill, but it can be hard to master, and this app helps in that process.
WH Questions by Smarty Ears is designed to help children acquire the important social skill of answering WH Questions – What, Who, Where, When, Why and How. It is easy to use, has a video tutorial for beginners, and features over 200 questions in both audio and written form.
Picture the Sentence by Hamaguchi Apps is used to practice listening skills, using basic pronouns and prepositions, and to practice processing these parts into a whole sentence. A simple picture represents each part of the phrase, and the child has to visualize putting each of these steps together to create a new picture that represents the whole sentence. The app has 3 levels and a built in reward game.
Articulation Station Pro by Little Bee Speech is a very comprehensive articulation app that provides multiple opportunities for the child to pronounce and practice all the 22 speech sounds in the English language. It offers opportunities to practice at the word, sentence and story level. As well as Flashcards it also includes a matching game; rotating and unique sentences; different story levels and comprehension questions.
Speak For Yourself is so efficient at word finding. Only two taps are necessary to get to the word you want to say. There is an innovative search feature that teaches where a word is stored with visual cues, so care providers and therapists (and the users themselves) can easily find words in Speak For Yourself and model them to the user. Other features include “Hold that thought” which allows the user to pull from a bank of stored phrases, and a history feature. Another innovative feature is the app’s ability to grow with the user- you can easily close out words until you are ready to use them- which means no rearranging of pages as a user’s vocabulary expands- everything is instead right there, waiting to be revealed when the user is ready.
Designed specifically with children in mind, AACorn uses real children’s voices, integrates drawing capabilities into the communication icons and has a special mascot, Buddy- an innovative character who provides a step-by-step tutorial of AACorn to help your child become excited and invested in his new AAC voice. AACorn uses a “word tree” format- as the child builds sentences, their words become part of the word tree- it will grow and expand as the user’s vocabulary does, with new branches predicting word choices based on the child’s unique past sentence history. AACorn also has the ability to create more than one user profile- you can even set up separate profiles for your child’s speech therapist and classroom teacher to get to know AACorn without affecting your child’s word tree.
AutisMate is incredibly flexible. It is a one stop shop for communication, scheduling, video modeling and more, all in one package. There is a complete AAC vocabulary included, which you can insert seamlessly into social stories, video modeling, customizable hot spot scenes, schedules… If you want one system integrated to meet a variety of needs, AutisMate is an app you will want to take a look at. As of May 2014 a new part of AutisMate should be out-AutisMate 365 a cloud-based system to make sharing and collaborating effortless.
SpeechTree is the only AAC app that combines an Interactive Learning Program & Complete AAC Communication System. Perfect for beginning and emerging AAC communicators who require lots of practice, encouragement and support. SpeechTree has training lessons integrated in to the app. Strengthen both receptive and expressive vocabulary skills using one of 20 integrated lessons in SpeechTree; SpeechTree tracks the user’s progress too.
ChatAble offers a fully functional AAC component with Facebook integration and handwriting recognition as an input method. ChatAble has a very easy to use visual scene feature with a really exceptional option- an alarm function. Choose an image from your camera roll, from one of the 12,000 widget symbols, or take a photo on the spot. Then program hot spots where you can embed your voice, a video or even a song from your iTunes, and to top it off program the visual scene to signal an alarm at a certain time of the day.
TTS & Icon Based
With an innovative handwriting input option, word prediction with dyslexia support, social media integration and more, Predictable offers a lot of features to meet different needs. You can easily print out or mail generated text also, which makes this a good classroom support for students with dysgraphia too.
RocketKeys is a switch accessible text-based AAC system with sophisticated word prediction suitable for aphasic and dyslexic users; its customizable keyboards and accessible features make it a strong choice for literate users with vision or motor impairment. It has a socially-hip word prediction engine based on thousands of twitter posts, and several innovative features to accommodate users with motor and visual challenges.
(AAC systems that have access to an extensive set of vocabulary and features but need pages set up prior to use.)
GoTalk Now– Aside from all the “essentials of an effective AAC app, like adjustable page layouts, customizable navigation, recorded and text-to-speech capabilities, and an included symbol set”, GoTalk Now has several innovative features that make it stand out. First, GoTalk Now allows embedding of links in buttons. This means that if desired, you can have a button that the user can press to take him or her directly to a website, video, or other media link. Our favorite feature of GoTalkNow is the editing features which make changing fonts and colors a breeze. Best of all, it is easy to add multiple images to one button for a totally customized experience.
Niki Talk + Tweet allows you to communicate and tweet with icons, pictures, and even drawings! Niki Talk + Tweet can also be used as a traditional communication app with voice, with a familiar sentence strip bar where icons move to when selected. The innovative paint feature allows you to draw on existing icons, even. If tweeting is not your thing, there is also a Niki Talk app with similar features, just no tweeting.
Entry Level Picks
(AAC systems that may have access to a smaller set of vocabulary; may offer less features but allow editing and personalizing).
InnerVoice – Very innovative “‘avatar” creation- watch your avatar (from your own photo or one of the included avatars) talk along with the words selected and spoken. This is actually quite amazing- your photo will seem to “come alive” – with your eyes blinking, and mouth moving with the words you have chosen. This is a simulation- this will not show the proper articulation for each word, but the mouth will match the number of syllables and show lip closure. The goal is to grab the attention of the user and have him or her focus on mouth movements and their important role in speaking. InnerVoice comes with two (small) sets of vocabulary pre-installed: “Basic Vocabulary” and “Core Vocabulary.”
**Mary Mahon is one of The iMums- a group of 4 mums from around the world who together review apps and technology products for children and families. She is mum to three special children- including a 10-year-old son, and 6-year-old boy/ girl twins. Her younger son has Asperger’s and her daughter has Apraxia and Dyspraxia. WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER
**The apps you see on Special Apps, Special Kids are apps that Amy Vinson Taylor uses with her students and her own children. As a Speech Language Pathology Assistant and parent of two children with special needs children she has put apps to the test! WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER
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With a network of affiliates across the United States, the Autism Society is the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization. Their mission is to increase public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocate for appropriate services for individuals across the lifespan, and provide the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy. Contact and join a local affiliate and get involved! To find the affiliate nearest to you, click on your state below.