As a speech therapist and technology specialist working with children with autism, I get asked all the time about my favorite apps for children with autism. It can be overwhelming finding the right apps for children with autism that are practical, but that also facilitate learning and communication, and aren’t just for playing games. So in my latest blog post I’m sharing a few of my favorite apps for children with autism.
Peekaboo Barn is a great app for early learners just starting to understand cause-and-effect relationships. Impulse control is one of the biggest challenges for children with autism, and Peekaboo Barn is the perfect tool to help work on this. Peakaboo Barn helps address that frequent act of children wanting to immediately start touching the screen. With this app, kids practice waiting and listening to the animals inside. Then they can say things like “open” or “go” to open the barn door and reveal the animals. For older kids, this app is great for learning how to make inferences by listening to the animal noises and making guesses about who is hiding behind the door.
Toca Boca, a game developer of child-friendly apps, makes a wide variety of products for kids. However, Toca Kitchen is one of my favorite apps for children with autism because of how many different words you can practice. Children begin by choosing a character (little boys love the monster!) and then start preparing food for their character. I start by showing all of the food options and then help kids choose what they want. It’s perfect for the core words “eat,” “more” and “on” when starting to cook. For older children with autism, Toca Kitchen is a great way to work on social skills. Children can observe their character’s body language and facial expressions to decide what they “like” and “don’t like” and then we can talk about it!
My PlayHome is one of my favorite apps for children because of how many different things children can learn. Children first pick a character, and then can begin doing activities throughout the house. Kids can tell their character to sit on the chair, open the refrigerator or drink some milk. Additionally, a child can practice different routines with their character that that child may be struggling with at home such as getting dressed or brushing their teeth. I love working on more abstract language concepts like "on” and “off,” by turning the lights or television on or off.
Road Trip, developed by Sago Mini, is an all-time party favorite! Road Trip is especially popular because I work with a lot of little boys who LOVE cars and trucks. Road Trip begins with kids putting clothes in a suitcase, which is the perfect opportunity to target the core word "in." Then they get to choose a car, where we can focus on core words "like" or "don't like." Next we put the suitcases (and the cat) in our car, and hit the road. With this app for children it’s easy to target words like "go" and "stop." My biggest recommendation with Road Trip (and any app for children for that matter) is to always be in control of the iPad. If you let your child drive the car your child might be more focused on playing than communicating!
Interested in seeing these apps in action? You can check out my video here.
This app features a green alien named Pogg who does lots of different actions and I use it all of the time to help kids learn verbs. Children with autism can often label lots of THINGS in their environment but they aren't using any action words. And you can't get really far building sentences without verbs.
In more traditional speech therapy, we might use photo cards or still frame images to try and teach these concepts, but this app makes the actions come to life through animation.
Once kids realize they can tell Pogg what to do (either by saying the action or activating it on their device) they get really excited to see what he comes up with. You can make him sing, drive a car, eat, throw a ball, fly.
Over to you
Have you tried any of these apps for children? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
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