Today (April 2), marks the annual World Autism Awareness Day, which kicks off Autism Awareness Month. According to the CDC, approximately 1 in 68 American children has been identified as having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which can lead to developmental challenges that affect social, behavioral and communication skills. Thankfully, technology has provided us with new tools for living with autism, from augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) apps that help people with autism and communication difficulties find their voice, to habit forming tools and educational games that can help develop communication skills and imaginative play. As part of Autism Awareness Month, we'd like to feature 10 apps that can help families living with autism. You also may want to check out the Autism Awareness Month collection over at the Apple App Store.
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) tools are designed to help those with speaking and language disabilities communicate with others. Proloquo2Go is an AAC app that can help autistic children express themselves by constructing sentences with a series of words and pictures that the app can then voice out. Highly customizable and feature-packed, Proloquo2Go comes with a variety of vocabularies and voices that users can further customize, making it a tool that can grow with the user and help them find their own voice. A related app, Proloquo4Text, has similar functions, but is driven more by text rather than pictograms and symbols for a more literate or older user. Proloquo2Go is available at a special 50 percent discount on April 2.
PiktoPlus - Autism AAC Speech 3D Symbols (Android) (20 hour Free Trial)
PiktoPlus is a highly customizable symbol-based AAC app for Android devices that allows users to quickly and easily build sentences and statements that the app can speak out. PiktoPlus includes numerous tools such as multi-user support and communication board customization. Among its more unique feature is one that lets users create custom 3D avatars that can be used to illustrate actions, emotions and other words. The app provides users with a 20-hour free trial to see if your family will find it helpful.
JABTalk (Android) (Free)
Another symbol-based AAC system for Android devices, JabTalk allows users to build and edit communication boards for creating and speaking sentences to help non-verbal and communication impaired users make themselves heard. Users can take the pre-built boards and customize them with their own photos, as well as record voices and sounds for particular symbols, as well as text-to-speech support. Fullscreen mode prevents kids from easily exiting the app, and users can back up their datasets to easily import them to other devices.
Inability to recognize facial and non-verbal emotional cues is often associated with autism spectrum disorder. Apps like Autimo help kids to learn how to recognize these facial cues through a variety of activities such as spot the difference and matching games. Autimo starts out simple with exaggerated cartoon faces displaying six emotions, slowly upping difficulty and complexity, including using the faces of real people. Parents can even import their own photos into the app to really personalize things. The free app comes with one activity, with a premium unlock providing more activities and the option to customize photos.
Choiceworks (iOS) ($2.99)
Developed with the support of hospitals and child development specialists, Choiceworks is designed to help children with habit forming and daily routines, as well as build waiting and emotional regulation skills. Choiceworks allows parents, caregivers and teachers to build illustrated, checklist-like "boards" for schedules, waiting and feelings. The app supports multiple user profiles and the creation of custom boards, as well as the ability to add your own pictures into the app's library.
The First Then Visual Schedule (FTVS) app is another tool that parents and caregivers can use to help develop positive habits and routines for children with special needs through the aid of visual schedules. With FTVS, parents can build visual schedules for daily events, routines and activities. Each step in the visual schedule can come complete with an image and audio, with the app coming with a library of images and the option to upload your own.
PuddingStone (iOS) ($19.99)
Developed in collaboration with Boston Children's Hospital, SpecialNeedsWare's Puddingstone is designed to make language development fun and interactive. PuddingStone's three research-based games, Action Factory, See and Do Theatre and Storytorium help explore a variety of language skills while staying fun and engaging. The app includes ASL captioning videos, interactive 3D graphics and a variety of minigames that help you target particular skills within the three main game groups.
FlummoxVision (iPad) (Free)
Join Professor Flummox and friends as they try to figure out that greatest of mysteries: people. Flummox and Friends is a live-action comedy series that tries to help kids ages 6 to 12 navigate social and emotional hurdles, especially if they live with attention and sensory challenges or ASD. The FlummoxVision app comes with scene selection, discussion questions, subtitles and AirPlay support. The app comes with the first 23 minute episode, "The Party", for free, and additional short videos are available as in-app purchases.
Injini (iPad) ($29.99)
Injini is an a collection of edutainment games offering meaningful play and practice of language, cognitive and motor skills to children with special needs. Injini includes 10 game modes, all lavishly illustrated and designed to stretch a variety of developmental skills such as shape and color recognition, matching, pattern recognition and more.
Toca Box for Autism Awareness (iOS) ($2.99)
A limited time bundle of Toca Boca's children's apps, the apps in the Toca Box for Autism Awareness are chosen because they can be great learning and play tools for young children with autism spectrum disorder. Apps such as Toca Town, Toca Band, Toca Hair Salon and Toca Store, (with some guidance from a parent, teacher or therapist) can be used to practice social interaction, pretend play, reading facial expressions and other social skills. All of Toca Boca's apps are designed to be kid-friendly, with no third party advertisements or in-app purchases to get in the way of your child's fun and imagination.