5 Popular Apps That Help Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

There are hundreds of great apps that have been designed to help children with autism spectrum disorders. Many of these apps focus on developing skills such as facial recognition, receptive and expressive language skills, and improving social skills. For children with more severe symptoms of autism spectrum disorders, these apps are powerful tools that can teach and support skills that the children are not readily acquiring  on their own. Apps that help children with autism spectrum disorders are often particularly powerful tools due to the fact that their visual, screen-based nature seems to improve the engagement and attention of kids affected by autism.

For kids with higher functioning autism (now described as Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder), the use of popular apps not designed specifically for kids with ASDs can also be effective for improving social, emotional, and communication skills. Due to developmental delays observed in some children with autism, parents and educators may need to supervise the use of popular mainstream apps. A social media app such as Instagram, for example, can be great for social engagement but is easily misused by a naive or overly-innocent teenager with autism. With appropriate supervision, however, many mainstream apps can be very useful tools for exercising the types of skills that children affected by autism need to improve.

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Mainstream apps are so appealing because they provide an opportunity for sharing and interacting with peers that apps made specifically for children on the spectrum do not. Here are some of our favorite popular apps that can be used to improve social and communication skills of children affected by autism:

InstagramInstagram is an extremely popular social media app that allows users to edit, upload, and share photos to their own personal photo streams and to view and comment on photos others share. Instagram can be used independently of the online file hosting service, but we still recommend that parents and guardians supervise younger children’s use of the app.

PinterestPinterest is an online social archiving service best described as a virtual bulletin board. Kids with very focused interests tend to like the fact that they can “pin” images from around the Web on boards that are themed as they choose. Pinterest is a useful tool for visual organization, from research for school to personal hobbies.

KidzWorldKidzworld is an interactive website for kids 10-years-old and up. Unlike some online spaces, Kidzworld has human moderators that keep the site safe from bullies and other Internet threats. Not only does the website feature games, it offers children the chance to read the news, write articles, blog, and comment on current events.

Singing FingersSinging Fingers is a unique app that encourages creativity on multiple levels. The app alters the color and size of the lines users make with their touchscreens according to the kind of sounds they make as they draw. Singing Fingers is a great tool with a variety of uses, from committing notes to memory to experimenting with cause and effect.

CalmCalm is an app for Apple devices as well as a website. The app provides soothing images and sounds to encourage meditation and reflection time. Calm is perfect for kids who have trouble regulating emotion or need scheduled times to wind down.


Featured image: Flickr user Jason Howle

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