Touchscreen technology popularized by Apple’s iPad has changed the way children with autism learn and communicate. One of the positives to come out of the mobile-device boom is that educators and software developers have joined forces to create innovative apps that teach children with autism about life skills and communication. Below we have outlined some of the best apps out there available for iPad and iPhone.
Proloquo2Go is designed as a daily communication tool to help build language skills. Catering to nonverbal children and adults, this app utilizes the tried-and-true method of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) to promote communication. One of the app’s top selling-points is its customizability. Users can navigate the app’s accessibility settings and choose from pre-programmed grid sizes to find a perfect fit based on personal motor and visual skills. You can add custom buttons and even opt for different voices and accents depending on where you are from. Users can choose from 100 voices, from adult voices and kid voices, that feature regional vocabulary and British, Australian, and American English accents, as well as bilingual options in French, Spanish, Dutch, and Flemish.
The biggest downside is the app’s hefty price tag: $249.99. While some may find that the app’s features are worth the cost, one thing to consider is Proloquo2Go’s AAC-focused approach. AAC can be difficult to implement, which means that parents will need to familiarize themselves with the Dos and Don’ts of the method before committing to the expense.
Autism Tracker Pro. $9.99
Autism Tracker Pro is an app for parents designed to streamline documentation and note-taking. For parents of children with autism, tracking symptoms is an invaluable tool for finding patterns in behavior, discovering correlations, and developing intervention plans. Autism Tracker Pro takes out the guesswork by allowing parents to easily and quickly record behavior, weather, food, mood, and secondary health observations like sleep and digestion.
Understanding that Autism Tracker Pro won’t be a one-size-fits-all option for everyone, the company offers a “Lite” version of its app for free. While the features are limited, it allows parents to play around before deciding if they want to make the investment.
While not explicitly designed for children with autism, MyPlayHome is one of those apps that fits the bill when it comes to promoting interactive play. MyPlayHome is a digital dollhouse appropriate for children even as young as 2 years old. You can explore everything in the house, and the app allows you to control even the tiniest of details like closing the curtains. The app’s characters can perform daily tasks like brushing teeth, eating, sleeping, and showering, which offers a unique opportunity to teach about these life skills. MyPlayHome utilizes Play Therapy to foster interactive skills and communication, although its drawback is that it is probably more appropriate for older children and for those who have have a grasp of the functions of a home and its objects. At a price of only $3.99, MyPlayHome is one of the more affordable options out there.
Toca Boca. Price varies
The Toca Boca app series is a tour de force in the digital toy world. Using real-life scenarios and themes, Toca Boca lets children create imaginative worlds filled with fun, diversity, and learning. The Toca Boca universe includes the Toca Life apps (with themes of City, Vacation, Pets, Hospital, and more) that allow kids to create their own worlds and play out their own stories. For children with autism, the app series is a safe way to navigate real-life environments and situations at their own pace. The Toca Boca app series does come at a cost, and the price ranges quite a bit depending on what themes you choose. For example, the Toca Life Beginner’s Box, which includes 9 apps, runs at $19.99. Another thing to consider is that this app series is not suitable for early learners and toddlers.
Otsimo’s origins date back to when our founder, Zafer Elcik, was searching for ways to help his brother, who had been diagnosed with autism, gain the ability to communicate. After discovering that touchscreen technology, specifically his iPad, elicited his brother’s enthusiasm and curiosity, Zafer got to work developing his own app. Imagined as a free, safe, and effective option for everyone, we have developed our app according to the rubric of Applied Behavioral Therapy (ABA), one of the hallmark interventions for children with autism. Our games teach core skills such as words, numbers, colors, emotions, while communication tools include AAC and speech therapy.
Otsimo is a dynamic app with a unique algorithm that adapts each exercise based on your child’s progress, meaning that gameplay is personalized and unique for each user. Our educational model features several types of play mechanics, so each topic can be taught in a different way depending on your child’s learning style. For parents, the app analyzes your child’s performance data into daily, weekly, and monthly progress charts, and you can even see which games and topics your child has learned correctly and incorrectly.
Otsimo is available for free on iTunes. We offer a premium version featuring extra games, in-depth progress reports, and cross-platform support. Otsimo is completely ad-free, making it one of the few free apps to provide a safe learning experience.