Editor's Note: April is National Autism Month. To mark it, Go Ask Mom is sharing information from the Cary-based National Autism Network.
There is no denying the powerful impact assistive technology can have for children on the autism spectrum. A particularly popular and revolutionary piece of assistive technology exists in the form of smart tablet devices. These innovative machines assist children on the autism spectrum with speech, promote social engagement and communication, and help parents and therapists store valuable information through documentation, pictures, and videos that can aid in determining the best course of treatment.
Here are 10 highly rated apps related to autism:
- Chore Pad HD ($4.99/iOS): This highly-acclaimed app will have your children begging to do chores. As children complete their chores, they are awarded stars that are redeemable for rewards creating by parents. Parents are able to give bonus stars are take them away based on the level of a child’s performance at a given task. The app allows children to get a taste of what it is like having a job and responsibilities as they are taught that hard work pays off. Users are able to sync with a free Dropbox account to store data between all of the Chore Pad installations. Syncing occurs automatically whenever a user opens or closes Chore Pad, so keeping up to date with changes is effortless.
- Conversation BuilderTM ($19.99/iOS): This conversation simulator is designed for elementary aged children to learn how to conduct multi-exchange conversations with their peers in a variety of settings. The app was named one of the best special needs apps on iTunes in June 2013 as it ranked No. 7 on the list. Student’s names and interests are interwoven into the simulated conversations, allowing for an engaging and stimulating learning process.
- AutisMate ($149.99/iOS): This award-winning app allows for personalized visuals and scenes to enable users to develop communication and life skills simultaneously. This app has a number of visualized features coupled with text-to-speech ability to improve functioning in a number of settings. The app also allows for visual supports to be shared instantly with teachers, doctors, and parents. For example, a parent can create “video modeling” scenes that demonstrate how to properly brush your teeth or wash your hands that can be called up by the child when necessary.
- Rufus Robot Apps Collection ($.99-$4.99/iOS/Android): The Rufus Robot Apps Collection contains three distinct apps designed to help children ages 3 to 4 and up learn specific skills. The “Learn with Rufus: Boys and Girls” app, the cheapest of the three, teaches young children the features that correspond with boys and girls faces. The customizable game comes with three distinct parts: the Learning phase, the Find It! Game (children are presented with a boy and girl picture and asked to identify), and the Name It! Game (children are shown a single picture and given an audio prompt). The “Learn with Rufus: Emotions” app costs $4.99 and aims to help children with autism learn emotions using the same three parts discussed in the previous app. The “Learn with Rufus: Groups and Categories” app, which also is $4.99, functions to help children learn groups and categories such as colors, shapes, fruits, and other common objects. Each of the apps also includes reward sets, toy breaks, positive reinforcement, music and sound, and text.
- My PlayHome (3.99/iOS/Android): This app allows the user to interact with a “digital dollhouse” that will open up an imaginary world in which the user can pretend engage in typical doll house type play, without the threat of a choking hazard. The app won a number of awards during its 2011 release, and was even featured in The New York Times. The playhouse allows children to participate in real-life activities, such as watching TV, cooking eggs, or turning off the lights. The app encourages learning and play skills and includes a number of characters that live in the playhouse for your child to interact with. The app is so simple that it can be used by children as young as two, but it is also detailed enough to occupy a child up to eight for hours.
- TouchChat HD- AAC ($149.99/iOS): This app is heralded as a full-featured communication solution for children that have difficulty using their natural voice. The app utilizes Augmentative and Alternative Communication as words, phrases, and messages are spoken through the use of a built-in voice synthesizer. Text generated with this application can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or via text message and email. Text is also able to be copied from other applications to TouchChat so that it can be spoken out loud. The program uses thousands of symbols and buttons to help facilitate conversation based on a particular setting. The app is now available in Spanish and Hebrew as well.
- Kid in Story Book Maker ($6.99/iOS): This is a social story app with a unique twist. The application allows you to superimpose your child’s picture into the story, allowing them to become the main character of the adventure. The app comes with eight story templates that cover a variety of topics from the useful to the fanciful. Teach your child proper hygiene or go visit San Francisco. Parents also have the ability to create their own customizable story and modify it to any of the templates they see fit. According to the app’s designers, this application was specifically designed to benefit children who use visual narratives to complement auditory directions, model tasks analysis, and expected social behavior, reinforce routines, and to engage struggling readers.
- Endless Alphabet ($5.99/iOS/Android): The Endless Alphabet app is an interactive educational tool to help your child learn their ABC’s and build their vocabulary. Instead of the routine “A is for Apple, B is for Banana,” this app uses “$100 words” like “C is for Cooperation, G is for Gargantuan.” Each word features a puzzle game with talking letters and a short animation demonstrating the definition. This app was also named the 2013 App of the Year Runner-App.
- Drawing Pad ($1.99/iOS/Android): Children with limited communicative ability will be able to use the Drawing Pad app as a means of facilitating communication. Children can draw pictures and words as a means of expressing themselves, or just for fun. The app has a number of accolades including the Winner of a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and a feature in The New York Times. Children can manipulate crayons, markers, brushes, stickers, colored pencils, erasers, and a number of other virtual art tools to create their very own masterpieces. Once finished, parents are able to share their child’s work of art on Facebook or Twitter.
- Story Builder ($7.99/iOS): This app offers children with special needs a chance to improve their auditory processing through extensive use of audio clips that accompany a given story. The app includes 50 distinct story lines to create a narrative from and also includes 500 audio clips of questions to guide the narrative. Winner of the Best Reading App of 2011 by the Huffington Post, the app is designed to improve paragraph formation, improve integration of ideas, and improves higher level abstractions by inference.