|photo (c) 2010 Kelly Nicolaisen|
We all know that each child with autism has unique needs -- but if Apple's iPad fairies were to bring Leo a brand new blank iPad, the apps below are the ones I'd stock it with. (Note: I've written about most of these apps before, but not as a collection.)
Leo's iPad Apps for Kids With Autism Starter Kit
Expanded descriptions below
- Stories2Learn - $13.99 - Create custom social stories, using your own photos, text, and voiceover
- iCommunicate - $29.99 - An AAC app: create icons with custom text, audio, and voice-over, incorporate them into storyboards.
- First-Then Visual Schedule** - $9.99 - Create digital visual schedules with several format options
- iEarnedThat - $1.99 - A puzzle-based reward system that uses custom images
- ShapeBuilder - $.99 - An errorless learning puzzle game
- Whizzit 1-2-3 - $.99 - Practice 1:1 correspondence/counting, with fun balloon-popping breaks
- FirstWords* - $4.99 - Spelling in an error-free environment, reading
- iWriteWords* - $2.99 - Guided handwriting with a really fun, reinforcing interface
- FruitMemory - $.99 - Concentration, turn taking, scalable, fun, cute!
- Supernova - $.99 - Practicing iPad pinch-and-expand motions
- DrawFree - $ Free - Magnadoodle-like simple drawing app
- DrawWithStars - $.99 - Animated drawing and methodical erasing app
- Faces iMake* - $1.99 - Fun, free-form collage making
- TappyTunes* ** - $1.99 - Tap out your favorite songs (note: text-based interface)
- Fruit Ninja - $6.49 - Because my boy deserves to play! Fun, very simple swipe-based interface
** Works with iPhone/iPod Touch, may not be compatible with iOS 4.2. Please check before purchasing.
Social stories help Leo with new transitions, situations, and reinforces challenging routines. I can make a social story in about fifteen minutes, once the pictures are loaded on the iPad. The interface is easy for Leo to use and he loves seeing stories about himself:
Leo enjoys making his own icons and doing the voiceover for them; seeing those same icons used in scheduling storyboards is reassuring for him. iCommunicate is very much Leo's speed; since he speaks "fluent requesting," we have not spent as much time with the more category-driven AAC (Augmentive and Alternative Communication Strategies) apps like Proloquo2Go (though I'm exploring P2Go), iComm, AutoVerbal, TapToTalk, and MyTalk.
First-Then Visual Schedule
A digital visual schedule instead of spending hours printing, laminating, cutting, veclro-ing? Yes please. Though I am hoping for a more category-driven interface in future versions.
Look in My Eyes - No longer recommended. Autistic people often find eye contact painful and unnecessary.
Recommended by Danielle Samson, an SLP at Leo's school. Numbers flash on models' pupils, then your child identifies those numbers from a field of nine. Bonus: Leo thinks it's fun. The goal is to support connected gazes.
Use your own pictures to make puzzle-based goal charts. Leo doesn't quite get the goal part, but he loves putting the tap-based puzzles together -- the more puzzle pieces (you set the number) the better.
Leo's current go-to app. Drag puzzle pieces to make a shape, which then turns into a picture -- and you get cheers! The app sucks in your pieces if you get close enough, so it's easy to succeed. Visual memory kids like Leo, who can match puzzle pieces to shapes, can become real speed demons with this app.
Just a really great, simple, straighforward 1:1 correspondence and counting game. Fun interface, goes up to 20, Leo loves the balloon-popping interludes every three or four sessions.
Another Leo favorite [video]. Drag letters into slots to form words. Each letter is called out as it falls in place. Then the word is read aloud. You can't put a letter in the wrong slot, which is really helpful for Leo since he's still learning to sight read.
Handwriting and spelling in one well-designed, intuitive app. The user can choose to practice on words or letters, in uppercase or lowercase. I love this for Leo because he can't go outside the "lines" [video] -- he's guided to form letter shapes correctly, and then words are spelled using the letters he just wrote.
A Concentration/matching app, which is great for Leo as he's got that stereotypical autism keen visual memory. While Leo enjoys Concentration apps such as AnimalMemory ($ free!) and Jirbo Match ($4.99), I like Fruit Memory the best because of the multi-player option that helps him learn turn-taking, and lets us play the game with him. Bonus: super-nifty design.
An ambient app that lets Leo focus on expanding and contracting a celestial cloud -- while practicing the pinch/unpinch iPad fine motor skills movement that kids like Leo find challenging.
Leo likes drawing lines with this app's musical spinning stars [video] -- they're motivating. And then he gets to indulge his OCD tendencies by methodically retracing his steps and making the starts spin off screen -- an exercise in manual precision that is also good for honing fine motor skills.
A very simple, free drawing app -- perfect for a boy like Leo who finds it much easier to draw with his finger than with a pencil, crayon, or stylus. His creations are too much fun -- we've never had unprompted goodies like this square guy before, not outside the iPad. You can also import photos and draw on them, which Leo thinks is hilarious.
A whimsical collage app and free-form creativity unleasher. I was worried that the interface would be too complicated for Leo, but he skips between options with ease [video].
Leo loves music and sings all day long, but at the moment he's not quite ready for independent extended sequences or instruments. TappyTunes plays Leo's favorite tunes automatically -- but he controls their rhythm and tempo, demonstrating how well he knows these songs! The only drawback is the text-based interface -- I have to help him select songs since he's working on his reading.
Leo is sitting next to me right now, playing this quick-draw fruit-slicing app (he prefers the bomb-free "Zen" mode). His choice. 'Nuff said.
- An extensive survey by @esailers at SLPSharing.com: iPad Apps and Accessories for Special Needs
- And because I've been asked about Android apps as well: http://www.androidzoom.com/android_applications/autism/by_matchin