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14 Expert-Recommended iPad Autism Apps


    In the past few years, there has been an explosion in the number of mobile apps for kids with autism. Numerous studies have shown the iPad’s impact as a supplement to specialized therapy when it comes to learning and communication for kids with autism.

    Still, there is no silver bullet solution when it comes to apps, and each child will benefit from different apps for different reasons. “The key to finding the best app is not to search in the App Store for the disorder, but by the skill you are trying to address,” says Mark Mautone, President at Integrated Technology for Persons with Autism and Development Disabilities (ITPADD). Mautone offers the following criteria for what parents should look for when making their selections:

    • Developer’s knowledge in the area in which the app was designed
    • App ratings
    • Ease-of-use
    • Functionality

    And while there certainly is a plethora of apps designed specifically as supplements to kids’ therapy, there are many therapeutic and educational apps that were not designed with autism in mind. Apps from developers such as Toca Boca, Oceanhouse Media, Duck Duck Moose and Spinlight Studios are consistently being used in treatment settings.

    The list that follows is a small sampling from experts and parents I spoke with that has proven to be especially useful in both educating and entertaining kids with autism: 

    Book Creator

    Book Creator gives kids the opportunity to flex their creative muscles, author their own stories and export their masterpieces directly to iBooks. The very intuitive interface makes it easy for kids of all ages and stages of development to follow along and it provides a sense of autonomy for building any kind of book imaginable. Mautone uses this app frequently for its ability to create a simple or a complex book that is personalized with text, photos, video, music and even voice recordings. ($4.99, iPad)



    For math education, Mautone also uses MathBoard, which is suitable for kids learning simple addition up to more advanced multiplication and division. Using a series of multiple choice questions, kids can take their time solving problems and even make use of the app’s “scratchboard” area where they can figure it out by hand. Mautone likes it because it’s “a simple, yet comprehensive math app that allows a user to configure math computations to meet the child's current educational level.” ($4.99, iPhone and iPad)



    Preference and Reinforcement Assessment (Touch Autism)

    This app is geared more towards professionals and parents running a preference assessment, but can greatly impact the course of treatment for the child. The app features different assessments, assessment tools and also automatically calculates the results of the testing itself to give the caregiver the information needed to determine the best course of action. Mautone claims, it is “the best app to assess potential reinforcers and is very easy-to-use.” ($9.99, iPhone and iPad)



    Covered previously on our Screen Play blog, AutisMate is one of the newer apps that assists children in making them familiar and more comfortable with familiar and new surroundings. The app is completely customizable to each user and can be set up to feature a child’s room at home, classroom at school, kitchen, bathroom and more. The app has more than 12,000 built-in symbols and prompts to help children better express their needs. ($149.99, iPad) 



    This app is for children who have difficulty building vocabulary and speaking. Using natural voices to dictate words, Proloquo2Go offers a comprehensive library of more than 14,000 symbols to help build language, customize word libraries, learn how each word sounds, and much more. Jordan Sadler, MS, CCC-SLP and Director and Speech-Language Pathologist at Communication Therapy in Chicago has been working with autistic kids for years and has found Proloquo2Go to be her favorite app for giving kids a voice through the iPad. “It is quite easy to use and individualize for any given child. I work with many children who use this app as their primary mode of communication. ($189.99, iPhone and iPad) 



    Giving autistic kids a sense of control over their own schedules can be very helpful and Choiceworks is an app that helps many families do just that. “Choiceworks provides a template to create a great visual schedule, which makes daily transitions and routines more predictable and therefore less stressful for many kids,” says Sadler. “This is a universally loved app.” ($4.99, iPhone and iPad)



    Pictello is an app that creates talking photo albums and books and can be a great visual and audio way to share stories. “Apps that provide opportunities for adults and children to create social stories together are a fantastic resource for families. These stories can be used to help a child understand behavioral expectations, prepare for a new situation such as a trip to the doctor or a new school, or process a challenging situation that has occurred. I love Pictello for this purpose,” said Sadler. ($18.99, iPhone and iPad)


    My Playhome

    Play skills are encouraged just as much as learning skills, and Sadler uses apps like My Playhome and Toca Tea Party to help kids practice. “Social interaction and play skills are key therapeutic targets for kids with autism,” she says. “For autistic children with motor planning challenges, the simplicity of playing house or tea party with a friend on the iPad allows them to show others all they know and engage in reciprocal social imaginative play, sometimes for the very first time, without having to manipulate 3-D objects.” ($3.99, iPhone and iPad); (Toca Tea Party, $2.99, iPhone and iPad) 


    Kid in Story

    Shannon Des Roches Rosa, Senior Editor, Thinking Person's Guide to Autism, has found this storymaking app to be especially useful to her 12-year-old autistic son in helping him prepare for trips and transitions. The stories he puts together of his travels and personal experiences can be shared with family , as well as his therapy team and teacher via Kid in Story’s free Reader Companion app. ($6.99, iPad


    Word SLaPps

    Word SLaPps helps kids recognize people by sight. By importing photos into the app and then personalizing each with an audio recording, Rosa’s son, who she said can be better at listening than speaking, can become very familiar with his large extended family and group of friends. The app can be completely personalized for each user, so whether it’s images of family, items around the house, foods, etc., it can be customized to suit the child’s needs. ($4.99, iPhone and iPad) 



    Taking breaks from therapy sessions and allowing kids to just play is something that Jean Jacoboson, Ph.D., Direction of Early Childhood Autism Services at the Kelberman Center credits as key to motivation.  “We use this in the classroom as reinforcers for students during their one-on-one teaching sessions. This helps with motivation and teaches the children that good things happen when you follow directions. These simple touch-and-respond apps are also nice for teaching developmentally delayed young children about cause and effect.” ($2.99 for iPad HD version, lite version available for free as well)


    Endless Alphabet

    Endless Alphabet features words for every letter of the alphabet, but instead of the typical “A is for apple,” “B is for boy” words, Endless Alphabet features words like “artistic,” “gargantuan” and “nosey” which will certainly set the stage well for an impressive preschooler vocabulary. “This is another kind of app that we use for both positive reinforcement and also for exposure to academic curriculum that is found in any Pre-K classroom. It includes captivating animation and music that is easy to remember and makes learning fun and interactive,” says Jacobson. 



    iTubeList allows users to save select videos and create playlists that are appropriate for children, rather than running the risk of them searching for something and coming across inappropriate content. This is another go-to for Jacoboson and her team. “We like this for our kids because they can play videos from a restricted set that we have selected.  This is helpful because there are so many cute and entertaining short music videos for kids, some of which we sing and dance along to.”


    Autism Apps

    For those not sure of where to start or what apps to search for, Autism Apps is a helpful resource that lets you search by behavior, categories and ratings of the many apps for kids with autism. You can find app ratings and also read first-hand experience from other parents and specialists that have used the app. There are more than 30 categories that you can search from, such as Assessments, Behavior & Social Skills, Cause and Effect, Communication, Reward Systems, Social Stories, Visual Timers and much more. (Free, iPhone and iPad)