Juliana is a mother of five, and she has a son with High Functioning Autism.
Autism-Friendly Apps for Kids
Most autism moms have found that occasional screentime can be a real lifesaver when it comes to our kids on the spectrum. Some moms use it as a reward, while others pull out the tablet or phone during crisis moments when our child is melting down and needs to be redirected. But what apps are best for our children on the spectrum? Which ones offer the best resources to help our children with speech, cognitive, and social reasoning?
Upon researching this topic, I discovered there's a real need for more autism-friendly apps. There aren't many apps that are specifically designed for children with autism, and the ones I did find were often costly. Because my son is 9 years old, I was looking more for age-appropriate apps with therapy tools or social stories, but I came across several apps that would be more appropriate for younger kids or kids who need cognitive help with things like matching, spatial reasoning, or speech. Below are the apps I tried and my opinion on the ease of use and helpfulness of each.
Autism Therapy With MITA
The first app I explored was Autism Therapy With MITA. There were several things I liked about this app. First, this app has levels from easy to advanced, so you can choose the level your child needs. This app features several matching games that teach shapes and spatial reasoning. Also in this app are puzzle games teaching math, patterns, and language. From the perspective of the child, games are engaging, fun, and easy to understand and navigate. They all seem to be "drag and drop"-style games, which makes them easier for smaller kids. From a parent's perspective, this app is great because it allows you to monitor your child's progress in the "Parent's Corner" section of the app. According to the app designers, this app is better for tablets than phones, but I still found that it was easy to use and navigate on my phone.
Social Stories Creator and Library
As I mentioned before, what I was really looking for an app for my older child with ASD was an app that featured social stories, and this seemed to be the best app for that. What I loved about it was that, in addition to a library of pre-written social stories, there's also the option to write your own social stories, which gives you the ability to customize each story to the unique struggles your child may encounter at the time. What I wasn't a fan of is that you have no access to any of the stories in the library without paying for each story or purchasing packages that range in price from $7 to $30. If you're looking for an app that offers great in-app purchasing options, this app may be a great app for you.
Autism Emotions is an app that allows the user to select emotions such as happy, sad, and calm and then tells a social story about the selected emotion. The stories are short and easy to comprehend and use sounds, words, and photos to convey the emotion and the reasons behind an emotion. I like this app because it's free, it's extremely easy to use, and it uses a combination of methods to describe each emotion to the child. The downsides of this app include the fact that there aren't many emotions available to explore yet and it isn't as interactive as some of the other apps I've explored.
Another option for autism-friendly apps for smaller children is Articulation Station. This interactive app teaches phonics at various levels. It offers a flashcard option or a matching option and allows your child to learn sounds from words, sentences, phrases, and stories. The app is easy to use and engaging, with colorful pictures and clear narration.
When I polled an online community of autism parents about their child’s favorite autism-friendly app, it was both surprising and unsurprising that YouTube was the favorite of most children and adolescents on the spectrum. I’m sure most autism parents can relate to having a child that is obsessed with their favorite YouTube video or YouTuber. The upside to this app is that there are videos about practically any topic your child may be interested in. The downsides are that YouTube really isn’t interactive like the above-mentioned apps, and of course it requires a lot more supervision as there are plenty of videos that may be disturbing or not appropriate for children out there. But when you have time to commit to overseeing your child’s screentime vigilantly, YouTube can be a great app for kids.
Do you use certain apps to help your child on the spectrum? Which apps do you use? Which ones do you avoid? Comment below and let us know!