Best Apps for Children with Special Needs

Technology can be a wonderful resource for children with special needs. From home use to school use, there are many benefits to utilizing apps as part of your child’s routine. Choosing the appropriate apps can help him learn and improve life skills, school readiness, social skills, and communication. Families benefit from app use by selecting those that can help your child learn to manage time, follow school or family schedules, and learn to stay focused and organized. Whether you’re developing your child’s social skills or practicing skills learned during behavioral therapy and ABA, you’re bound to find options that meet your needs. Our tech-savvy team at Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center has compiled a list of our top app recommendations to help you navigate through the many choices offered today.

The Benefits of Blending Apps with ABA & Behavioral Therapy

Processing information, attention span, and communication may sometimes be a struggle for children with various learning delays. Many of the apps available today help you and your family work together with your child to practice an array of life and social skills and behaviors. You’ll find choices that help your child communicate needs and feelings through the use of verbal and non-verbal skills. He’ll strengthen the many goals he may be working on from his ABA and behavioral therapy sessions.

Apps with Tools for Life

Today’s technology advancements offer us an incredible way to help children with various special needs. While they don’t replace the benefits of his behavioral therapy sessions, they lend a helping hand. Apps provide a fantastic opportunity for children with disabilities to work on much-needed life skills and ABA goals. From schedules to time management, there are apps you can find to help enrich your child’s learning process. When you’re browsing through the dozens of available apps that are out there, try to find those that incorporate several skills or behaviors in one. You’ll find apps that work on skills such as organizing, sequencing, and memory in one activity. Scheduling apps are the perfect example of utilizing a variety of skills at once by allowing your child to help build his daily or weekly schedule.

Language apps are an incredible tool not only for non-verbal children, but also for those who require assistance in all language skills areas. App makers have developed ways to help your child read social cues and express their own emotions and needs. Today’s apps break down the communication barrier, something that was once so difficult to do.

If self-regulation and social skills are a focus on your child’s ABA plan, you’ll find several apps available to help you meet those needs. Some apps help your child regulate their emotions while others teach them about building relationships. These are critical life skills that can help your child live a more prosperous, productive life through reinforcing his behavioral therapy session skills.

For older children with special needs, there are plenty of apps to choose from. For those who may be ready for the responsibility of working in the community, there are apps to help them prepare. Your child can learn more about their community, proper social skills in a variety of situations, and even explore their interests in vocational skills. Social Success is one such app your child can benefit from. Social Success helps your child understand and learn proper social skills and interactions in work, school, and community settings. It explores situations through the use of videos and touches upon topics such as appropriate phone and texting use.

Another recommended app focuses on helping your older child work on literacy with an emphasis on community. To gain more independence, this app helps your child navigate your community by strengthening his literacy skills. He’ll learn to find and follow common and practical words he sees throughout your community. Read to Learn is also broken down into three sections, providing stories that your child can choose to listen to or read by themselves:

·         Focus on Feelings

·         Life Skills Reader

·         Safety Skills Reader

Social Skills Through App Use

Apps offer a way for your child to better understand and practice social skills. Whether you’re working together or independently, there are apps designed to help teach and strengthen a multitude of skills often taught in ABA and behavioral therapy sessions. Areas such as emotional understanding, social awareness, self -regulation, behavior, and coping skills are among them. You’ll find your options of apps span various needs, abilities, and ages. Four Little Corners is the perfect example of an app that can be used independently or with a caregiver. Through an interactive story, the app helps your child develop an understanding of friendship while exploring topics such as inclusion and inequality. It helps strengthen your child’s ability to relate, recognize, and to read emotion along with additional social skills and behavioral therapy goals. Take advantage of this excellent opportunity to role-play with your child. It will help him gain a better understanding of acceptable social skills he may currently be learning during his ABA sessions.

Pictello is an app with seemingly endless possibility. With Pictello, you have control over creating the narrative of your child’s story or schedule. The app allows you to record your own voice or choose a tone of voice. Choosing to upload your own images will enable you to utilize photos familiar to your child, such as creating a story about his morning and nightly routine. You may also choose to upload images to create a story in preparation for a new event or upcoming change in routine. Using Pictello can be particularly useful when helping him learn what to expect when starting a new school or moving to a new classroom. Add in lessons to help reinforce appropriate choices he may be working on in behavioral therapy sessions. Building familiarity through your own story, voice, and the real-life environment will help reduce the anxiety your child may experience in certain situations.

Work with him to create his own stories. Or take advantage of helpful tools the app provides that play back what your child has typed or recorded to help create the story he wants. It’s an excellent choice for any age and ability. It provides an option that your child can grow with and learn to work with independently.

Strengthening Communication

If communication is another area in need of attention, you’ll find a variety of helpful apps at your disposal. Assistive technology has become widely used to enhance both receptive and expressive language. Whether the app is for use at home or the classroom, there are many benefits to using an app for your child’s language delays.  Some are designed to help non-verbal children communicate with their caregivers or peers. Others focus on improving audio visual skills. Being able to express wants or emotions through the use of apps is a powerful tool. A wide range of language delays are covered and may involve pictures, recordings, or text-to-talk functions.

Assistive communication apps can range in price point, so it’s helpful to do your research and find options that fit your needs and budget. Read parent reviews, go over the pros and cons of your options, and most importantly, choose the app that best addresses your child’s needs and abilities. One app we suggest looking into is iCommunicate for iPad use. This app offers a handful of useful tools for your child to work with. You’ll be able to explore the custom audio recording feature in several languages. You and your child can even create your own pictures to use in the app. It also allows you to make your own learning tools that suit your child’s needs, such as storyboards and flashcards for social skills and cues. Combine these handy self-made tools to create a daily visual routine together. Prefer to use stock images? The app comes with a preloaded image library with an added option to insert images from Google if you choose.

Visual Scheduling Apps

Visual scheduling apps are perfect for children of all ages with special needs. They also provide chances to practice a variety of ABA skills at home. These apps offer a way to create a routine for your child and family, while also working to strengthen language skills. The iPrompts app, available for both Apple and Android, offers you the ability to build an image-based schedule and a visual timer for countdowns per activity. You are also given the option to allow your child more control. You may select a mode allowing him to choose his next activity through multiple image selections.

Behavioral App Choices

Caregivers can make good use of many behavioral apps that are available. These are wonderful supportive tools that allow you to easily keep track of much-needed data for your ABA and behavioral therapy sessions, as well as personal records. For instance, some apps assist you in keeping track of behaviors, counting occurrences, length of occurrences, and more. Others, like Autism Track, help you keep a journal full of important details to simplify your data tracking. This is a convenient tool and enables you to record, track, and share important information, including:

·         Behaviors

·         Symptoms

·         Occurrences

·         Length of occurrences

·         Medication

·         Allergies

·         Diet needs

·         Diet log

·         Behavior ratings

·         Snapshots of daily interventions

·         Snapshots of daily behaviors

·         Checkboxes, graphs, and more

Another fun yet helpful app to reinforce behavioral therapy work is the iReward. With ABA practice being critical, this app enables you to keep track of each behavior or skill, the number of occurrences, and the reward your child will receive once reached. This tool also offers the chance for you and your child to work on building rewards and expectations together. Record and track his progress together and reinforce while encouraging ownership.

We understand you may still be unsure about the use of apps for your child. With proper monitoring of time and the content your child is utilizing, devices and apps can be a beneficial tool for your household. Just remember to select apps that are relevant to your child’s needs and appropriate for his abilities. Whether you prefer to choose apps that require you and your child to work together or independently, there are options for all your needs. Take this opportunity to spend time with him. This is a wonderful way to bond, work with him on ABA session skills, enhance communication skills, and introduce or reinforce appropriate social skills.  Don’t forget to practice the positive rewards system put in place to help encourage changes you are implementing in his behavioral therapy. 

Additional App Resources Worth Exploring

There are just too many useful apps to get through, so we’d like to leave you with a few pointers and sites to help you start your own search. While choices are abundant, try not to get overwhelmed. Begin by focusing on one skill or behavior at a time. Ask yourself:

·         What are my child’s strengths? Weaknesses? Likes? Dislikes?

·         What goals are we working towards?

·         What skills are we trying to master?

·         What behaviors are we replacing?

·         What does this app offer my child that helps him reach his ABA plan goals?

·         What do other caregivers have to say about this app?

With a list of your needs and priorities outlined, you’ll find yourself scrolling through apps and weeding out unnecessary choices in no time.

·         Care.com has put together a list of twenty-two apps to engage children with special needs while helping them work on various developmental skills and milestones. Apps range from help with reading social cues to developing fine motor skills through tracing and writing.

·         The concept of time can be a tricky one to teach your child on the autism spectrum. Take a look through this thorough list of sequencing and causality apps to help.

·         If you’re looking specifically for apps that can help your child in the school setting, eSchool News­­ offers recommendations of their favorite ten apps for education. These apps cover many social skills, language and math help, and behavior regulating, to name a few.  

For more parenting resources and helpful hints, visit our blog for useful tips and guidance. If you’d like to learn more about our all-encompassing center, we’d love to have you visit us for a tour. Contact us today to schedule a time for your family to see how the Blossom Behavior Wellness Center can meet your needs.

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