Autism Smartphone Applications
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Teaching Children with Autism: There’s an “app” for that?

Smart phones and tablet computers (like the iphone and the ipad) are becoming increasingly useful in our busy, multi-tasking lives.  Some parents of children with autism have found new ways of using these devices.

App creators have started designing apps for children with autism.  There are apps for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), pictures schedules, task analyses, social stories, behavior data taking, social skills and more.  We looked at the website www.autismepicenter.com (AE) for information on the various “autism apps.” The site gives comprehensive (and humorous) reviews from the mother of a child with autism

In the area of augmentative communication, TouchChat, Proloqui2Go, Predictable and MyTalk Mobile were given very high ratings by AE.  TouchChat was called the “heavy hitter” of AAC apps.  With the ability to purchase and share vocabulary sets, the vast array of settings, and the ability to record your own voice, TouchChat was highly favored by AE.   Proloquo2Go is favored just as highly.  AE touts its huge vocabulary, comprehensive library of icons (up to 7,000), natural voices and its customizability as some of the best features.

In the area of social stories, AE calls Pictello “the best.” It is easy to use, lets you input pictures, and reads your stories aloud.  Also, stories can be shared with others via itunes!

When it comes to apps for visual schedules, TUSAC Schedule and Steps were very highly rated.  Not only does TUSAC allow users to make visual schedules, but it can also set alarms to signal transtitions, and users can check off completed tasks.  Steps is very useful for task analyses (check lists of small steps involved in larger skills).  Users create a task analysis for a skill, attach real pictures to each step, and can pair audio with the steps.  And, it doesn’t let users skip steps!

There are also apps for behavioral data.  Behavior Tracker Pro is an excellent app that allows users to take many types of data on multiple children.  Users can graph data and even record video!  AE says that this app can be complex, but it’s thorough and great for professionals.  AE also liked Behavior Assessment Pro.

As with all new treatments and tools for children with autism, parents should thoroughly investigate these apps and discuss them with their child’s treatment team before purchasing them.  While these apps have the potential to be useful for many purposes, they are not intended to replace other treatments like behavior, occupational, or speech therapy.   

Many evidence based practices (e.g., PECS and sign language) require children to make a social connection through eye contact and joint attention before commenting or making requests.  When a child is only required to tap icons to request or comment, a crucial piece of social interaction is left out. 

We hope these reviews were helpful.  For more app reviews, please visit www.autismepicenter.com!

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