Apps For Autism- 2 New & Noteworthy Communication Apps

Over the past two years apps & iPads have proven to be hugely beneficial to individuals on the autism spectrum. There are many well thought-out, research grounded (for individuals with autism) apps that have produced positive outcomes for our students. Unfortunately, there has also been a glut of apps that have come onto the market that are not research based or simply “copycats” of a successful app.

The good news is – There are two new outstanding communication apps that are research based with unique formats and features giving users high quality, distinctive choices for AAC.

Something to Say     By: Pebro Productions

$4.99 until August 1st, $9.99 regular price. Don’t wait get your copy of  Something to Say NOW

Text-to-Speech applications are fantastic AAC options for so many reasons, building literacy, giving the user the ability to say completely original thoughts and store these thoughts into folders for easy access.

Something to Say has created a method to group and store messages into folders that are simple, straightforward and appealing to all ages & abilities. Messages can be customized with choice of high quality “Acapela” voices. Messages are then stored into folders that can be customized with color, text and images.

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Folders are displayed prominently on the screen for easy access. A Recents list will let the user repeat a comment or phrase without risk of inadvertently deleting the message. Text-to-Speech, multiple folders at your fingertips and the ability to assign high quality voices to different messages makes Something to Say an superb AAC solution.

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Functional Communication System     By: The Conover Company

$49.99–A keyboard for custom text entry is available as an
in-app purchase for $1.99, definitely worth it!

The Functional Communication System (FCS) can serve for both, communication and language building. Its unique design pairs a real picture with a video that supports or expands upon the picture. All picture, video and voice recordings are customizable. FCS comes with 500 core vocabulary words and videos to get you started, however, it is designed to be customized to the user’s individual needs, abilities and world.

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The in-app purchase for a high quality synthesized voice is absolutely worth the $1.99 if you are working with individual(s) on the spectrum. Research in voice preference indicates that individuals on the spectrum prefer a synthesized voice over a human voice; however, every individual is different. Having the option to choose type of voice output is a key feature for any great AAC app. Try the FREE version to make sure it is a fit before you buy.

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Quick Feature Matching Checklist For iPad Apps

What app should I use? How does a family member, teacher or therapist decide what apps to use with their child or student?

There is an overwhelming flood of information, in the media today. Every app claims to have the features that are perfect for your child or student with autism. The reality of it is there are hundreds of thousands of apps available and hundreds of apps just for communication and not all apps are great, good or even beneficial to every student. There is no “try before you buy” opportunity and purchases can be frustrating with time and money being frittered while deciding if the app is a fit or not.

We must first consider what features will give us the best “fit” for our student(s). In an effort to help select or rule-out a particular app a Feature Matching Checklist has been designed with the user in mind. It is quick, easy and includes the features that are important to children & students on the spectrum.

By using the Feature Matching Checklist you can effectually wade through your choices to find the most suitable apps.

Feature matching the user, their environment and abilities prior to purchasing an app can ensure a good fit. This allows you conserve your time and money and increases the effectiveness of your iPad as a learning tool. Download the Quick Feature Matching Checklist

Data / Tracking

If you are an educator or therapist, then data/tracking student progress is not only important but a huge time saving option. Many educational apps not allow the user to collect and save data for a single or multiple students as well as take notes. Check data tracking features prior to buying to help increase your efficiency. Parents can also monitor progress on goals at home.

Voice Output

The proper fit for voice output can support the acquisition of both language and speech. Research has shown that students on the spectrum prefer synthesized voice output over the human voice. Also, students with auditory processing challenges may respond better to high quality synthesized voices. However, not all students have the same preferences or respond to voice output in the same manner. It is highly desirable feature to have a choice of both synthesized and digitized voice for those apps that have an auditory output component.

Customization

Having the ability to add personalized pictures and content to any app is highly motivating for the student on the spectrum. Having the convenience of customization features within the app can save time and allow the user to create individual lessons/communication boards on the fly.

Adjustable difficulty levels reduces frustration when a task to too challenging and allows a student to move up levels as they master concepts.

Display

Does your student recognize icons or symbols or are real pictures preferred? Some apps give the user a choice of real pictures or choose from a library of icons/symbols.

Sensory

Sounds & visuals can be motivating or distracting to a child trying to complete a task. Having the choice to turn them on/off without leaving the app is a feature that makes using the iPad a seamless educational tool.

Self-Monitoring

Whether you are self-monitoring or being monitored by a parent/educator, having the ability to track progress can facilitate success.

Share/email

Being able to share student work and accomplishments with others is my favorite feature. Parents may want to share a memory book with family, therapists may want to share student progress with other educators and individuals may want to share thoughts/ideas with friends via social networking.

Motor Skills

Know what fine motor skills an app requires prior to purchase. What are your child’s/student’s motor abilities? Do they have the ability to interact with a particular app, are they working on motor skills within the app or do they enjoy lots of tactile interactions.

Price

The price category is for reference only. Price should not be a feature to consider when determining if an app is a good fit for a child or student.

Educational materials usually have a high cost. The introduction of the iPad and apps has significantly reduced the price of communicating and learning. A pack of flashcards, board game or workbook can cost from $9.99 to $ 89.99. I am happy to pay $0.99 to $49.99 for materials I can use over and over with high motivation, attention and interaction.

Communication devices traditionally have been thousands of dollars and now I can get full-featured communication apps for $250 and under. Fortunately, there are some great free apps and many developers offer FREE trial versions of their full applications. Not only that but developers often offer their full apps FREE or at reduced prices several times a year.

To keep up with the latest FREE and reduced price apps go to the Apps for Autism Page on Facebook

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Apps for Autism- 6 Great Apps for Literacy

Literacy has been described as the ability to read for knowledge and write coherently and think critically about the written word (Wikipedia). Reading is one of the most important functional life skills that any child will learn (Browder & Spooner, 2006). The acquisition of reading and writing skills leads to success in both school and life, in fact, the law guarantees evidence-based reading instruction for all.

For highly visual students with autism literacy skills are paramount. Both expressive and receptive language is positively impacted when literacy instruction is initiated. Many students on the spectrum may not be able to speak or write clearly, but they can definitely learn to read and type. This is why the iPad combined with literacy apps are a win-win combination. Many of my students who have been struggling with literacy for years have made significant progress with the introduction of the iPad and computer technology.

Below is a list of student, therapist, educator and parent favorite apps for increasing literacy.

Any book app that has a hard copy companion is a great teaching tool. The student learns the words with the interactive app and then can read the hard copy independently to the class, friends and family.

FirstWords: Professional     By: Learning Touch

$9.99

Applications of this kind are fantastic for so many reasons, the obvious educational value of letter identification, word recognition and phonemic awareness, but mostly it brings students to-the-table. Students are immediately taken by the sounds and animations and will quickly become proficient at dragging the letters to corresponding boxes. Users are able to customize word lists from over 350 words arranges into 12 categories. FirstWords is frequently the choice app for reinforcement or leisure time with students.

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Bob Books #1 and #2- reading Magic HD   By: Learning Touch

$3.99ea

The popular Bob Books beginning literacy series has brought its Reading Magic to the iPad. By slowly introducing new letter sounds, using consistency, repetition and stories your student interacts with the story to successfully learn to read. Each app contains 12 scenes with extensive word lists and 4 challenge levels. The animations that come to life after correctly completing the spelling puzzle make the pictures relevant and the words meaningful. Bob Books are highly motivating and stress free introduction to beginning reading, spelling and story comprehension.

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Booksy: Learn to Read Platform for K-12      By: Tiptap Inc


FREE

Level readers with comprehension quizzes are available for the iPad with Booksy. This is a wonderful collection of attention-grabbing books that encourages students to read and interact with the content to ensure comprehension. Your students can have the book read to them, read it themselves and even record their own voices. Additionally, students can collect stars/rewards for reading while educators track the performance of up to 3 students.

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This free edition comes with two complete books to get you started. Additional books are available as in-app purchases. Each additional book costs only $.99

Booksy: School Edition. Learning to Read Platform k-2 comes with 14 complete books. It may have features that a typical person won’t use, but at $9.99 you can save a few dollars on books and avoid the in-app purchase process.

Click on the image to the right for the school edition

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Touch and Write     By:FizzBrain

BUY NOW

$1.99

My students love Touch and Write iPad app! It is full of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic input that stimulates their sensory system. On the one hand, it is a favorite app to learn pre-literacy skills such as letter sounds, letter formation, spelling and words, on the other hand, Touch and Write is a terrific reinforcer. Touch and Write is packed with kid friendly, motivating features such as writing with whipped cream, cool sound effects, music, graphics and an array of luscious paper textures that keeps their attention and focus on task.

My favorite feature is having the ability to customize a word list, based on individual needs that the students actually want to practice.

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Touch and Write iPad app comes pre-loaded with 2 high frequency word lists, 2 alphabet word lists, numbers 0-9, upper case and lower case alphabet lists so that students can practice the most common occurring words.

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Lastly, the target area for writing the letter does not have rigid boundaries allowing for a bit of user error as well as stops and starts. This decreases frustration and abandonment of task. As one of my colleagues put it, “I wish I could write my reports in chocolate frosting.”

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Little Speller & Sentence Maker     By: grasshopperapps

$.99 each

The combination of Little Speller and Sentence Maker have become a powerful tool in teaching language/literacy skills and meeting national standards in education for all my students at every age and ability level due to extensive customization features.

The graphics and audio are clear and concrete with brightly colored real pictures. Add, change or remove pictures, graphics and/or words to fit your individual needs and skill level. If that’s not enough, Little Speller and Sentence Maker let the user add their own pictures, words and letters to make the learning experience extremely personal and relevant. This is an important feature for students who may have challenges with generalization.

Little Speller
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For complete emersion into a language and literacy activity have your student take pictures of meaningful people, places and items in their environment. Then add these pictures to Little Speller so that they can learn how to read, spell and recognize their favorite words.Next use the same pictures to customize sentences and phrases in Sentence Maker.

Sentence Maker
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For example, a student can take a picture of their backpack, put it into Little Speller to learn how to label, spell, read and recognize the word B-A-C-K-P-A-C-K. Then add it to Sentence Maker to create a phrase such as, “My backpack” or a sentence, “I have a blue backpack.” Best of all, the whole process only takes a few minutes to create a complete individualized lesson.

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Apps For Autism- Six Excellent Apps for Your Teenager or older student Part 2

In the first part of this blog post I highlighted 3 of 6 apps; some of the apps come in sets of two or more. For the sake of this post I counted these sets as a single app simply because they can be used and have been used collaboratively and together make an all-inclusive tool kit.

Working with hundreds of students and alongside many SLPs, OTs and Educators, through time and many trials, together we’ve been able to compile a list of apps that tend to be effective with the majority of our students. Effective in that they are engaging and fun for the student while providing a means to achieve preset goals.

It gives me great satisfaction to be sharing these apps with you. Hopefully many of you find them as useful and effective as we have.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please make a comment.

SentenceBuilder Teen      By: Mobile Education tools

$5.99

It can be a challenge to generate enthusiasm & interest for language and grammar lessons, however SentenceBuilder Teen has done just that. With 100 teen themed pictures, 3 levels of play and encouraging audio reinforcement the pursuit of language and literacy has become enjoyable.

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For the educator SentenceBuilder Teen is a welcome addition to traditional classroom curriculum that will support in class lessons and educational standards as the developers have made it a point to include the connector words that make up over 80% of the English language. Individual student progress and statistics page make it easy to monitor improvements in student’s performance.

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Strip Designer      By: Vivd apps

$2.99

Visual supports are an evidence based practice that provides individuals with autism structure for transitions, routines, communication, memory and social skills. However, no one said they had to be boring. Let your teens express themselves with this highly customizable app for creating unique and distinctive visual supports that match their one-or-a-kind personality.

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Strip Designer provides you with over 100 templates with 1-9 cells, text balloons, color/filter enhancements and plenty of stickers to fashion everything from a task analysis & daily schedule to communication & memory boards.

Once the masterpiece is complete, no matter how ingenious or cheesy it is, it can be saved to your photo album, emailed to friends & family or uploaded to your social network.

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Learning structures      By: Uitgeverij OMJS

$1.99

Have you ever been at a loss for activities, engaging lessons or just wanted something new to try with your students? Learning Structures contains over 50 activities categorized into “learning structures” to help you find the just right activity task suitable to the purpose of your lesson, duration, and group size.

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Each lessor or “structure” should be considered as a core idea that you can modify and build upon to fit the abilities and interests of your students.

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Apps For Autism- Six Excellent Apps For Your Teenager or Older Student Part 1

There has been a flood of quality apps and app developers since the release of the iPad just two short years ago. They have been an absolutely fabulous resource for educators, parents and fellow therapists. Our students and children have benefited in ways unimaginable. Thank you, developers and techies, for your hard work and dedication.

While a great number of apps are directed at younger students, there is also an abundance of age appropriate educational apps for your older students. I have compiled a list of some of the best motivational, educational and age appropriate apps for teens that have been successfully used across therapists, classrooms and campuses.

Some apps are new on the market and some have been with us from the beginning. The following 6 notable apps (or app sets) have all been helping students ranging in age from 13 – 22 of all abilities meet academic goals and increase life skills for a productive, happy life. Enjoy!

Functional Skill System      By: Convover Company

$.99-$1.99

The Functional Skills System (FSS) is a series of 42 apps that feature video modeling and video sequencing of concepts, vocabulary, social skills, safety awareness and functional activities from hygiene and manners to money equivalence and safety signs. Most of the videos feature young adults and teens demonstrating basic skills at home, school, community and workplace environments.

One of my favorite FSS apps is Everyday Social Skills. With 6 categories and a total of 75 videos Everyday Social Skills ($.99) highlights daily activities such as using the restroom, waiting in line, asking questions or simply walking through the community using videos of real people combined with word(s) that coach the user with step-by-step instructions. And, since your iPad or iPod is portable, lessons can be taken out of the classroom and into the applicable environment to be practiced and mastered.

Take a look at the 4 free sampler apps to see if the Functional Skills System fits the needs of your students.
Click on the image


Literacy skills


Life Skills


Social Skills


Work Skills

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SR-Naming       By:Speech Remedy

$39.99

Build both expressive & receptive language skills as well as building vocabulary & word recognition. The user is presented with a clear, realistic photo and required to either verbally label a picture or receptively identify a written/spoken word from a field of pictures. Three levels of prompts, vocabulary selection, a help button that provides a phonemic cue and timing are features that can be modified and controlled to fit individual needs.

SR-Naming was originally designed for adults who are rebuilding speech and cognitive skills, however works very well for older students with special needs.

Expressive Language Sample Screen

Receptive Language Sample Screen

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TherAppy Apps     By: Tactus Therapy Solution

$14.99-$24.99, $59.99 4 app combo

High quality real pictures that focus on a variety of language and literacy skills make this set of apps from Tactus a great choice for the older student with special needs.

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There are four individual apps that allow the user to focus on one specific area of need (comprehension, naming, writing and reading) and one 4-in-1 Combo app that pools them altogether into a single complete therapy toolkit. All apps feature built in prompt hierarchies, data tracking, sharing of progress via email and a child-friendly mode for the young-at-heart.

Writing TherAppy  $19.99

With 4 modes and 3 levels of difficulty in each, users have access to 12 different exercises to practice writing over 500 words + unlimited custom words!

Comprehension TherAppy  $24.99

Comprehension TherAppy is a professional speech therapy app that targets auditory and reading comprehension of single words with 4 language settings.

Reading TherAppy  $14.99

Hundreds of phrase- and sentence-level reading tasks based on the same functional vocabulary and clear photos as Comprehension, Naming, and Writing TherAppy! This app is an automated workbook that can be used with older children with special needs.

Naming TherAppy  $24.99

Naming TherAppy is the best-selling word-finding app to help older children with special needs practice important naming and description skills, and now you can add your own images!

Language TherAppy  $59.99

4 apps in 1! Comprehension, Naming, Writing, & Reading TherAppy are now together in one comprehensive speech therapy toolkit at a 30% discount to you!

Language TherAppy Lite  FREE

Not sure if TherAppy Apps are for you? Give them a try with Language TherAppy Lite it’s FREE.

A free trial of Language TherAppy, a 4-in-1 app combining Comprehension, Naming, Writing, and Reading TherAppy!

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