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Autism rates have risen steadily since the 1990s, becoming a condition that affects about one in every thirty-six children in the United States. As awareness of autism grows and technology advances, the two paths have converged to create many helpful apps that assist individuals with special needs.
Below, I will explain what autism is, some of the most highly recommended apps for children with autism, and how they can help your child learn and grow. I cover applications developed to assist with communication, scheduling, behavior, and social and life skills.
|First Then Visual Schedule HD
- What Is Autism?
- Best Assistive Communication Apps For Children With Autism
- Scheduling And Behavioral Apps For Children With Autism
- Social And Life Skills Apps For Children With Autism
- 4 Helpful Free Autism Apps
- Bonus App: Autism Parenting Magazine Review
- My Personal Experience With Autism Apps For Children
- Video: Apps For Autism In Action
- Healthy Living And Autism
- Why Trust Safe Smart Living?
What Is Autism?
Autism is a neural development disorder recognized by a child’s impaired communication skills and social interaction. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as many as one in every thirty-six children in the United States is affected by an autism spectrum disorder. Individuals with autism also display repetitive and restricted behavior. Some individuals are nonverbal, while others are higher functioning but may still experience difficulty communicating in social situations.
This developmental disorder is almost always diagnosed within the first three years of life. Autism can affect children of all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. According to CDC research, it is about four times more common in boys than girls,
Parents generally have an idea of a developmental disorder by the time their child is 18 months old and has difficulty keeping up with peers. While there’s no “cure” for autism, researchers highly recommend an intensive intervention that involves building a structured schedule that caters to a child’s interests.
One of the most essential aspects of helping children with autism spectrum disorder to improve their development and communication skills is visual aids. Visual schedules, tasks, and learning tools are some of the most highly used and effective communication methods with autistic children. Many apps for autism can help in different areas. These include assistive communication, scheduling, behavior, and social and life skills. Speaking apps for autism can allow nonverbal and nonspeaking individuals to have a voice of their own. You may find different tools referred to as a “non verbal communication app,” “an autism speech app,” AAC apps for autism,” or “communication apps for autism.”
This article from The Hanen Centre goes into a deeper explanation of why communication skill building is essential for all kids, but especially those on the spectrum.
Communication is one of the biggest challenges for children with autism. Many are unable to express themselves through words. Augmented and alternative communication (AAC) methods have changed how autistic people interact with others, making the world more accessible to them. AAC apps for autism are designed to provide visual cues to make communication easier and give a voice to those who may not be as comfortable communicating verbally.
Proloquo2Go is highly recommended for nonverbal children and those who experience difficulty with speech. It provides symbols and an extensive vocabulary with text-to-speech capabilities and is available in four languages. The Proloquo2Go app is easy to set up and navigate, and the voices are natural sounding. Automatic conjugations and the ability to expand the app’s vocabulary are some of the hottest features of this app.
Proloquo2Go is not the most affordable app, but it comes highly recommended by parents of special needs children and is praised by educators for its robust capabilities and widespread use. It is suitable in both academic and therapy settings. Though it is a higher price, I think it’s worth the investment. This application has over nine thousand positive reviews from parents of special needs children and a 4.8 out of 5-star rating.
The only recommendation parents have for this app is that it is much easier to use on the iPad, which provides a larger interface to view symbols. Currently, you can use it on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and macOS systems.
- $249.99 for iOS
- $124.99 for macOS
Avaz AAC Review
Avaz AAC is an augmentative and alternative communication app that utilizes pictures and text. It is a full text-to-speech app with over 40,000 pictures and several voices to choose from. You can start with one and two-word phrases and work up to forming complete sentences. The vocabulary is designed to aid in language development, includes 80% of everyday speech, and has a powerful predictive speech capability. Avaz AAC has good customization and personalization features and is a fantastic tool for encouraging functional communication.
Avaz can toggle between picture and keyboard mode, making it suitable for all levels. The vocabulary has three levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced, so you can move up as your child increases communication skills. It is set up in a consistent pattern for easy access and to promote muscle memory. The words are color-coded, and you can enlarge them with a simple tap. You can set up a favorites folder for frequently used phrases and convert vocabulary into a book to use anywhere.
Avaz also allows you to share folders with other Avaz AAC users and send messages via email, WhatsApp, and social media. It also has “alert” buttons so your child can get a caregiver’s attention. Avaz AAC is available on Android and iOS devices. You can try Avaz for free for 14 days before purchasing on Google Play. You can purchase different subscription plans once in the app to make it work best for your budget.
iCommunicate is five-star rated and has been around for many years. iCommunicate comes with a slightly hefty price tag for an app, but compared to Proloquo2Go, it is certainly more manageable. This special needs application is recommended not only for children with autism but also for children and adults with other special needs that require visual stimulation.
With this app, you can create routines, visual schedules, flashcards, pictures, storyboards, choice boards, speech cards, and more. In addition to these features, you can also create custom audio prompts. Once your child completes a task on a visual schedule, for example, he can mark it as complete, making it an interactive app he’ll learn to use more and more.
The iCommunicate database has 10,000 SymbolStix pictures preloaded into it, but you can also add your own by utilizing Google Images. While the features of this app are not as wide-reaching as those of Proloquo2Go, they are extensive and customizable. iCommunicate currently works on the iPad, iPad Touch, iPhone, and Mac.
MyTalkTools Mobile Review
My Talk Tools Mobile is an application designed for anyone with communication difficulties to be able to more clearly communicate with others. My Talk Tools Mobile is available for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. This is an expensive application compared to simpler apps, but the customization capabilities make it worth it for those with special needs.
This AAC app allows users to communicate using pictures, symbols, images, audio files, and a free text-to-speech voice. Unlike many other augmentative and alternative communications apps, the customization of MyTalkTools Mobile allows users to communicate in the way they decide to, in a human rather than a computer-based voice. The price point and wide variety of features make it a popular choice for parents of children with autism.
Some of the best apps for autistic children provide a schedule and an outline for behavioral expectations. These scheduling and behavioral apps focus on providing structure to the lives of those with autism. Visual schedules are very effective for autistic children. These often start as physical manipulatives. Apps can provide an interactive, portable visual schedule and tools to help educators, parents, and caregivers keep track of symptoms, progress, and other information.
First Then Visual Schedule HD Review
This app works on any idevice and is an interactive visual schedule that you can use in various settings. You can set up a visual task schedule, make social stories, set up choice boards, and access video modeling. You can add pictures to your schedule in five ways and use the 10,000 Smarty Ears symbols included in the app.
There’s the option to view your schedule in a few different ways, including a single picture, two images at a time in a First Then board, a scrollable checklist, and two drag-and-drop options. You can also print schedules and share them via email.
The First Then format is helpful, simple to follow, colorful, and visually appealing. It is useful for kids of all ages, affordable, and easy to use.
Goally: Learning Apps For Kids Review
Goally is an Android app with an iOS counterpart, Goally Therapy Suite. The app is quite versatile and includes therapy elements, educational games, AAC, language learning, self-care, mindfulness, hygiene, and social skills. The app has over 100 lessons, including skill-learning videos that model behavior.
A visual schedule builder allows you to build a personalized schedule, including first-then boards crafted exactly to your kiddo’s needs. You can include videos, audio cues, visual times, and more. There is also a reward and token board to offer motivation. A companion parent app allows parents to control and customize the app from their own devices.
- Free with in-app purchases to unlock advanced features starting at $6.99
Autism Tracker Review
Autism Tracker is a behavioral app designed to allow caregivers to track symptoms, behaviors, and interventions in a journal-like format. While it’s design is more for caretakers than individuals with autism, it provides functional behavior tracking.
Simple checkboxes let users record daily activities such as diet, therapy, and medicine. The program has sliders that allow for tracking of behavior and symptoms. Using daily log screens, caregivers can track or graph the progress of students, children, or patients with special needs with a particular degree of accuracy. You can try out the free version, Autism Tracker Lite, before purchasing to see if it fits your needs.
These social skills and life skills apps are designed to assist in the everyday functioning of individuals with autism.
Pictello Visual Stories Review
Social stories are a valuable tool that can help autistic children understand emotions and navigate through new experiences. Pictello allows you to create a variety of social stories using images, video, and sound. In each, you can set up lessons, explain emotions or events, and set steps to help children work through them, all in an engaging visual story.
Not only do children have a resource in the social story, but the app allows them to build their own, increasing literacy skills. Stories can be read aloud in the app, played in a slideshow, and shared. This allows nonverbal children to have their stories and ideas heard, even if they cannot speak.
iReact – Emotional Regulation-Anxiety Autism Review
iReact is a research-based app designed to help children navigate difficult emotions. The app helps children become aware of their emotional state and offers tools to help them cope. A range of activities guides them through managing challenging emotional situations and understanding how different emotions feel in their bodies.
This app allows children to express their feelings in nonverbal ways and helps them understand why they may feel a certain way. Identifying these emotions and then offering simple coping tools is a great resource.
Model Me Going Places 2 Review
The Model Me Going Places app is a free application aimed at assisting children in learning life skills through visual prompting. This app focuses on “challenging” locations throughout the community and utilizes pictures to show children appropriate behavior for each location. For example, if a child is nervous about going to the doctor, they can navigate through a slideshow that models what may happen and how they may respond.
The photo slide shows pictures of other children as they model behavior allowed in various unfamiliar locations. In this way, visual modeling acts as a social story to help children through everyday situations that may be highly stressful for them. It is simple, and the list of scenarios is short, but it is easy to use and very well-reviewed.
4 Helpful Free Autism Apps
Not all autism apps or augmentative and alternative communication apps are expensive. There are several free resources available that can be quite useful to boost communication skills for both verbal and nonverbal children. While many of these are not as comprehensive as some of the paid ones, they can be quite helpful. Consider the following free apps for nonverbal autism, verbal autism, and anyone who may need help communicating due to a disability.
SymboTalk -AAC Talker Review
SymboTalk is a free AAC app that talks for you. Users click on pictures and symbols, as well as 14 predefined communication boards for different social scenarios. It has an image library of over 60,000 pictures and icons, and you can add your own. This powerful free app can give a voice to nonverbal children and adults in an easy-to-use, understandable format.
Autism iHelp Review
This free autism app, designed by parents of autistic children and a speech pathologist, helps teach autistic children vocabulary and basic language skills. It is simple and intended to avoid overstimulation while supporting the development of an expressive vocabulary.
Speechify is a free text-to-speech app available on Android and iOS devices and as an extension on Chrome. It allows users to have just about anything read aloud. This includes web pages, ebooks, emails, documents, PDFs, and image descriptions. It also works as an AAC for nonverbal individuals. They can type what they want to say and have the app read it aloud, making it a valuable autism speech app.
Speechify has a paid and free version. It supports English language learners and speakers of other languages, including French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and more. The voices are human-sounding and natural. Speechify is an excellent app for autistic individuals as well as people with other communication difficulties and disabilities, including visual impairment, dyslexia, ADHD, and more.
iReward is a free application (with in-app purchases) that focuses on behavioral rewards. This simple-to-use app allows you to enter a behavior that should be repeated, the number of times that behavior needs to be repeated, and the reward that will be received.
This app aims to motivate children who show improvement in behavior when offered tangible rewards. It has a limit of one child and four tasks per week.
Bonus App: Autism Parenting Magazine Review
Autism Parenting Magazine is a very affordable and versatile resource for parents. It is available on both Android and iOS. The app itself is free. You can purchase a single issue or sign up for a subscription once you’re in the app. The magazine offers loads of support and resources, including advice on apps, the latest developments in therapies, real-life stories, connections with others, and more.
You can try out a free issue before making any purchases to see what Autism Parenting Magazine has to offer you.
- $2.99 monthly for an annual subscription, including app access
My Personal Experience With Autism Apps For Children
I have not used every app on this list, but I have used many forms of assistive technology and augmentative and alternate communication tools working closely with autistic students. My students were verbal and nonverbal children with a wide range of capabilities. Some were completely nonverbal or nonspeaking, using perhaps one or two words. Others were very high functioning but still needed help communicating their thoughts in a way others could understand.
The introduction of autism speech apps for my students was life-changing, especially nonverbal communication apps. Being able to respond verbally to others through the apps gave them a way to interact with others, which was very effective and significantly increased their communication skills. Some even began to repeat and use the AAC tools’ phrases, expanding their vocabulary, verbal, and interaction with others by leaps and bounds.
In my experience, speaking apps for autism were useful both for my students and me. They often thought of them as games, loved to use the tech, and made it easier for us to understand each other. It also gave them the ability to interact with their peers and teachers in a way they never had before.
Watching and helping a nonverbal or autistic person learn to communicate is a truly amazing thing. Through the use of these tools and breaking down the barrier of being unable to communicate verbally, my nonspeaking students can experience life in a fuller way and feel more like they belong.
The visual schedule functionalities are very beneficial for adults and children with autism. From a simple task like waking up and getting dressed to navigating a high school schedule of classes, having these tools available through handheld tech has made a remarkable difference. They are simple to use, discreet, and can help students succeed in a way they never thought possible. Even some of the most simple apps and tools can make a huge difference.
I recommend you take the time to try out some different ones, starting with free apps for nonverbal autism to learn how they work. All apps need practice and consistent use to be effective, so do not give up if it does not seem to make a difference right away. With autism, routine is very important, so working these tools into the routine takes time, but you will see differences within a short time.
Watch the Proloquo2Go iPad App in action and see how it can help give autistic children a voice in this short video from the AP.
Healthy Living And Autism
Both caregivers and individuals with autism work hard to live a healthy, fulfilled life. It is easy as a caregiver of someone with special needs to allow your own needs to take a back seat to theirs. While this is understandable, keeping yourself healthy is pivotal to keeping others healthy. Be sure to allow yourself time to reset, recharge, and focus on your own health. The happier and healthier you are, the better care you can give to others.
Do you have a favorite app to assist children and individuals with autism? Please share it with us in the comments.
Why Trust Safe Smart Living?
Danielle has several years of experience working with children with severe and profound disabilities, including autism. She has worked closely with assistive technology and knows how much it can help make the world accessible to disabled individuals. Additionally, she is a professional researcher dedicated to bringing people information to help better their lives.Tagged With: