For families of children with autism, we know all too well the challenge of communication between us and the child. Autism affects both receptive and expressive communication skills and can often leave everyone frustrated at the inability to convey a simple request.
But Apple has unwittingly revolutionized the autism world with the technology of the iPad (or iPhone or iPod Touch). Coupled with downloadable applications, or ‘apps’, that have been developed to enhance communication between children and their parents (or caregivers, teachers and therapists), the results are nothing short of miraculous as families are able to engage in quality time together.
Culled from several sources and parental input, here is a list of apps that are popular with special needs families:
Apps for Communication:
1. Proloquo2Go – Provides a full-featured augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) solution for those who have difficulty speaking. It contains text-to-speech voices, up-to-date symbols, powerful automatic conjugations, a default vocabulary and much more. Proloquo2Go, available for iPhone and iPad at $189.99, is considered a good alternative against buying an expensive AAC device.
2. First Then Visual Schedule – Allows the creation of visual schedules that provide positive behavior support through the use of images that show daily events (i.e. morning routine or therapy schedule) or steps needed to complete a specific activity, (i.e. using the restroom). First-Then Visual Schedule is completely customizable to each user’s individual needs and personal voice recordings and images can be added directly from their computer or iPhone camera (in addition to the images in the application’s stock li-brary) to create a schedule. This personalization allows for schedules to be created and updated on the go, helping transition through unexpected changes in a daily routine. Extremely useful for individuals in scenarios where visual schedules serve to increase in-dependence and lower anxiety during transitions through different activities. First-Then Visual Schedule is available for $9.99, currently offered in English and is compatible with iPhone and iPod Touch.
3. TapToTalk – Just tap a picture and TapToTalk speaks. Each picture can lead to an-other screen of pictures for more detailed conversation. TapToTalk allows the creation of personal AAC albums, with an option to add your own pictures and sounds, to meet the specific needs of the user and includes a library of over 2,000 pictures. Albums created in TapToTalk Designer are “synced” over the internet directly to your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. The TapToTalk app is available for free, but there is a yearly subscription fee.
4. AutismXpress – People with autism have trouble interpreting emotions and under-standing what different facial expressions may represent. Autism Xpress helps individuals recognize and express their emotions through its fun and easy to use feelings chart. The Autism Xpress iPhone app is available for free.
5. Grace – Grace is a digital version of the Picture Exchange Communications System, a book that helps those unable to speak to build sentences from relevant images. The app starts with 400 images that were chosen by non-verbal people as communication starters. For example, categories include colors, food and drink, my body, and places. Grace allows the users to build their “photo vocabulary” by snapping their own photos to use within the app. Grace is available for $38.
Apps for Parents:
6. IEP Checklist – An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is designed to support the educational needs of school aged students with disabilities. The IEP Checklist App helps parents of students with special needs become better informed advocates by making IEP information easier to access. Version 2 has active links to the relevant lan-guage in the federal regulations, allows users to record the IEP meeting or record notes, and has the capacity to print out notes and click on a checklist as requested items are discussed. The IEP Checklist app is free.
7. Behavior Tracker Pro – allows the tracking and graphing of behaviors by frequency, duration and rate. Option to record a video of behaviors or interventions to for later re-view with parents, teachers and therapists. Available for $29.99.
8. Autism News Reader – grabs the top stories from the best autism health news and information sites and delivers them to your iPhone. Available for $0.99.
Many autistic children also respond well to music and art, and some enjoy fast moving games or interactive storybooks. Since a child’s preference varies, here are some of the apps that my two sons enjoy (prices vary):
- ABA Flash Cards
- Doodle Buddy
- Toy Story
- Spongebob Marbles and Slides
- Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart
Visit http://www.apple.com/itunes/ for more details.