iPad Apps for Kids With Autism: Fun Ones! Cheap Ones! Free Ones!

Leo's love affair with his iPad continues! It helps that we keep finding fun new apps for him, and that those apps are often either free or inexpensive. We <3 you, app developers! Keep the free and low cost innovation coming!

Here are three of Leo's current faves, apps that engage him for long long stretches. I know that they're helping him with a variety of fine motor, composition, and social skills -- but from his perspective, they're just fun. Which is something he has a hard time finding on his own. Ah, self-direction. Stick around for a while, will you?

Faces iMake
I've written about Faces iMake by Imagine Machine before -- it's much beloved by our entire family. Leo scored his copy for free through the wonderful Moms With Apps App Friday program (oh, hey, look, it's Friday today!), but it's now available in a free Lite version.

Leo doesn't do a lot of face-making at the moment -- he's a more free-form collage guy. But he certainly enjoys playing with all the easily accessible elements, as you can see in the video two images below (he's playing with the Lite version).

Here's one of his creations. I think it displays his budding talent for color composition and complement (e.g., he changed the background color after creating the collage), something he's been demonstration with clothing choices lately as well: if his new shirt has an orange pinstripe in it, then damn it, he is going to wear his orange shorts -- and there will be vocal protests if we suggest otherwise. 

Draw With Stars
Another great play/art app that we also downloaded via MomsWithApps is Draw With Stars. Its interface is simple -- touch the screen to draw, but if you touch a star you've already placed it will fly off screen. For Leo, whose autism symptoms include fine motor challenges and a touch of OCD, it's incredibly engaging. He gets to practice drawing in a free-form environment,  work on his fine motor control, experience cause-and-effect (don't cross the streams!), and methodically clear the screen, in great swaths or star by individual star. He considers this app great fun.

This is my very favorite drawing of his so far -- I've made it our iPad launch screen. Though I'm surprised Leo didn't add more than five fingers -- he's aware that hands have five fingers, but considers the concept limiting, and, as an artist, likes to add three or four extra digits.

The video below shows him starting a Draw With Stars session (he eventually cleared every last star off the screen). Note also how, erm, well-loved the screen is. And his, um, ambidextrousness! (Yes, I will be sending this video to his fantastic new OT at school.)

Fruit Memory
My personal favorite of all his new apps is Fruit Memory, a variation on Concentration created by Paul Mayne. I found it via a recommendation from my friend and probably most favorite blogger of all time SJ. Fruit Memory is not free, but it is only 99 cents.

Fruit Memory's design is adorable. You can't argue with me on that point -- it would be like condemning kitten videos or cats who blog. Which simply isn't done, not by civilized people.
I like Fruit Memory is because it combines one of Leo's strengths -- his strong visual memory -- with an optional social interaction element.

Again, it's a Concentration game. Players can choose the number of tiles and play alone, or -- social element alert -- with up to three other players. Which means turn taking practice! Which Leo needs!

Each person's avatar lights up when it is their turn --- again, a nice visual cue, helpful for Leo and his visuall-oriented friends.

Here's our boy playing on his own -- you should see the speed at which he dispatches each game. (the app is also good for practicing fruit names.)

And you won't get to see a video of this one because I'm a little bit bitter -- every time I play Leo, he kicks my ass. By a margin of several points. Which, when you're only dealing with six points total on the lower level -- you get the idea.

If you get any of these apps for your kids -- or if you have them already -- let me know what you think. Or if you have any tips or tricks or uses we might not have considered.


  1. We have a couple of similar favorites. Brooke adores Doodle Buddy. It has a similar function to Drawing with stars, but a whole screenful of shapes from which to choose - from hearts to eyeballs - and you can 'stick' them on anything - including your own photos. Brooke loves 'drawing' over photos of herself and her sister. It has fabulous sound effects that go along with each function too - from painting to smudging to 'stickering'. We are unabashed fans.

    The other big hit is Jirbo Match - which is a memory game with animals. She couldn't really care less about anything but finding the monkeys, but it might be fun to have a way to branch out from fruit ;).

    All hail Apple!

  2. We love Doodle Buddy -- Leo's sister Mali has saved about 200 eyeball-themed creations on our iPad. But I'm not familiar with Jirbo Match - will have to check it out. Thanks Jess!

  3. One more I thought might be worth sharing - Let's Tans. It's a spacial recognition game where you have to figure out how to fit pieces into a shape. There's an adult level that I find infuriating, but Brooke loves the kid's game.

  4. Excellent! Leo loves tangrams. And the girls love Lady Gaga songs. All the kids win - Thx.

  5. Hats off to you and Leo for exposing the developmental potential of the iPad for kids! Lorraine @momswithapps.

  6. Thank you thank you thank you! ;-) Drawing with Stars was a HUGE hit - my SPD (sensory processing disorder) kid was fighting with her little brother to get to play it - she likes to draw, he likes to make the stars explode. LOL I will have to safeguard my itouch from now on. Thank you for the recommendation! You're now on my RSS feed - please recommend more when you have a few minutes.

  7. Lorraine, always. Such an admirer of the work you do.

    Anne, did you see the article I wrote for MomsWithApps about apps for kids with autism? Some might work for SPD too:


  8. Oh, I am so happy Fruit Memory worked out. :)

  9. Hello, Squid, and thanks for doing this wonderful blogging!

    And I wondered if you could help me out a bit.

    I am a direct care professional in Eastern Europe and I am writing a request for governement funding to buy an iPad for my clients with multiple severe disabilities and autism.

    Right now we have litterally zero ed or communication technology available at the facility I work at - not even a regular PC. My clients would SO benefit from an iPad.

    But in this country, most people haven't even heard about the iPad, and using it with kids with disabilities is virtually unheard of.

    So, I am finishing writing my project and right now I am looking for some pictures to go with it just to illustrate what exactly it is that I am asking for and why.

    So, I love this pic of your little man rocking his iPad and I wondered, would you consider letting me use it, or any other pic that you might have, in my request for the funding?

    That would help me loads, so if you would consider it, please let me know here or at zhagarova@yahoo.com.

  10. Our 2 year old was just diagnosed with autism and is completely non-verbal. He is learning PECS and his speech therapist can't believe how incredibly smart he is. We are thinking about getting him an ipad, are there apps for teaching communication to the younger kiddos?

  11. I wanted to share with you a perfect educational tool for children with Autism. I hope you can give this app a chance.



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