Apps for Autism
For children or people with autism, basic things such as communication, social interaction and personal expression can be difficult. But according to a 60 Minutes news story, “Apps for Autism,” many teachers and parents have found success with the help of touch-screen devices. Interactive tools such as iPads and iPhones offer multiple sensory inputs including sound, visuals and touch. This can be helpful for children with autism when facilitating all kinds of activities, from a child learning to communicate to any autistic person simply having a little fun with a game or some music.
The Recapp has compiled autism apps that can help families of children with autism. However, since many types of autism exist, there’s a lot of ground left uncovered.
Though it’s fairly expensive at $189.99, Proloquo2Go might be a good value when it comes to enabling people with communication difficulties to find a voice. Text-to-speech features allow typing to be read aloud by the device, while a huge library of tappable pictures convey ideas like “I want,” greetings and basic phrases. A few quick taps and Proloquo2Go does the talking, helping autistic people without developed speech to speak their minds through their device. ($189.99 for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad)
People with autism may struggle responding to verbal instructions or information, but they may do better when that information is conveyed visually. This visual app lets users such as parents or teachers create instructions or convey information in an engaging way. The app allows users to implement photos or captured images, video, and sound. It also allows you to build an actual visual schedule for a child, including tasks like getting dressed and eating breakfast. If verbal communication is difficult, First Then Visual Schedule can provide an alternative. First Then Visual Schedule serves as a tool to help people with autism complete their routines and receive information from caregivers in their lives. ($9.99 for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad)
The iTunes App Store contains many apps with specific features that can help children or people with special needs, and it’s hard to cover all of them. However, Autism News Reader can help parents and guardians in a different way by providing information and the latest news on the studies of the autism spectrum.
The news app includes articles aggregated from various research sources, and it lets you browse by “top stories” or by the news outlets you prefer. Users can tag articles as favorites for easy reading later, or share them with others through social networking outlets such as Facebook. ($0.99 for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad)
AutismTrack is an app for caregivers and parents of autistic children. Better yet, it’s an app for methodical, data-conscious caregivers and parents.
Developed by a family with an autistic child, the app helps monitor an autistic individual’s behaviors, plus any applied interventions (like skills training and hyperbarics). As its names suggests, AutismTrack then tracks this information through time in helpful charts and graphs. While the app isn’t visually impressive and could benefit from more customizable features, the real sticking point may be AutismTrack’s price of nearly 50 bucks. Still, if you need organized data in a hand-held tracking system, AutismTrack may be for you. ($49.99 for iPhone)
While Talking Tom Cat 2 was not solely created for people with autism, this game app has gained an enormous amount of positive feedback from the autism community. Talking Tom Cat (the original version launched in 2010) and Talking Tom Cat 2 foster communication skills, as the cat in the game app, Tom, repeats anything that a user says to him (in a funny high-pitched voice, no less).
Tom also reacts to gestures and commands: Stroke him and he purrs, poke his belly and he gasps, scare him and he jumps. Talking Tom Cat 2 also includes a new friend of Tom’s, a menacing dog named Ben, who taunts Tom and provokes comical reactions. You can record anything you do with Tom and share your videos on Facebook and YouTube. Talking Tom Cat 2 commemorates National Autism Awareness Month by featuring a blue t-shirt for Tom available via a free in-app download. The shirt reads “Autism Speaks: Light it Up Blue.” (Free to $0.99 for Android, Free for iPhone)