10 Apps for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Technology isn’t just helping those with ASD learn; it is allowing them to thrive by becoming a more seamless component of their social selves.[1] Tech-minded parents have realized that apps for smartphones and tablets are entertaining educational tools that simultaneously teach social communication and cognitive skills. The availability of affordable, portable touchscreen technology has actually revolutionized the way children can learn and communicate, and mobile apps have given parents, educators, and therapists multiple approaches to teaching.[2]

Some experts believe that a high percentage of individuals with autism are motivated by technology due to the predictability of response. Unlike interactions with people, the computer will always respond in an expected manner. This consistency is easy to understand and comforting.[3] Mobile devices put this useful teaching tool right in the hands of children with autism, regardless of where they are.

Let’s highlight 10 mobile apps that can be beneficial to children on the autism spectrum. The apps on the list below range in price from free to $4.99, and are available on a variety of devices:

  1. Starfall ABC/Learn to Read

Starfall ABCs (available only on iTunes) teaches the alphabet by helping kids sound out the letters. Once children have mastered letters and sounds, the Starfall Learn to Read app helps emerging readers by introducing 15 simple sentence stories and fun songs with friendly characters such as Zac the Rat and Peg the Hen.

  1. Super Why!

This PBS Kids app allows your child to go on a hunt identifying letters with Alpha Pig, trace letters with Princess Presto, practice rhyming words with Wonder Red, and help Super Why select words to finish a story. Super Why! offers fill-in-the-blank games within each story, so it improves reading comprehension because of the familiar stories and characters. For kids who love the show, this app offers another level of interaction.

  1. The Monster at the End of This Book

This playful app from Sesame Street is bright, colorful, and laugh-out-loud funny. The storybook app features notes for parents on helping children through their fears. It’s ideal for teaching cause and effect because kids will learn that with a touch of their fingers, they can interact with the story by “turning” pages, untying knots, and knocking down bricks. 

  1. Emotions and Feelings — Autism

Kids with autism often have difficulty recognizing emotions and facial expressions. This app, created by TouchAutism.com, uses social stories and simple illustrations to show what different feelings look like. It also provides explanation for why people may feel a certain way.

5. Pop Math (Lite)

The Lite version of the Wired Kids Choice Award app introduces basic addition in a fun way. Six pairs of colored bubbles with numbers float around the screen, some showing equations and some showing the answers. Kids must pop the correct pairs to advance to different levels, and words of encouragement are given after each one. A child who has mastered addition can progress to the full version of the app to learn subtraction, multiplication, and division. 

  1. Toca Boca

The Toca Boca app gives children real-life scenarios and allows them to create their own stories. From applying a bandage with Toca Doctor, to sending out invitations and setting a table with Toca Birthday Party, the options provide context for interactions by using appealing characters and situations.

  1. Agnitus — Games for Learning

This app offers a variety of interactive games, some of which focus on identifying and matching shapes, colors, and letters, and managing self-help skills. Many of the games feature the cute and mischievous Olly or Icky, and the app tracks your child’s performance level. A “report card” provides detailed information on study time and completed skills, which is useful to determine strengths and weaknesses. 

  1. Fruit Ninja Free

The fast pace of Fruit Ninja Free promotes both game-playing and fine motor skills as players chop fruit. This version is fun, short, and really benign. It is stimulating and fun for children to play, and also encourages good sportsmanship.

  1. Doodle Buddy

Kids can draw, scribble, write, and color on a blank canvas, or upload photos to personalize with stamps, stencils, and quote bubbles. Doodle Buddy allows kids to develop creativity and game-playing skills. A variety of backgrounds, like nature scenes, and classic games such as tic-tac-toe and hangman, are also provided. Other cool features include mazes for kids to navigate as well as a connect-the-dots background. 

  1. Nick Jr. Draw and Play

With this app, kids can create their own artwork by choosing different backgrounds (featuring favorite Nickelodeon characters like Dora the Explorer and Team Umizoomi), decorating with coloring tools (crayons, brushes, chalk), and using special effects (fireworks, splatter tops, magic wands) and animated stickers. There is also the option of drawing and coloring on a blank background.

This is just a glimpse into the many valuable apps now available to help children with ASD. To learn more, austismspeaks.org is an excellent resource, and offers a full list of recommended apps.

 [1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/20/teaching-technology-autism_n_6865030.html

[2] http://www.parents.com/kids/development/intellectual/best-apps-for-kids-with-autism/

[3] https://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/documents/family-services/vicki_expert_interview.pdf

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