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