Top 10 Apps for Children with Autism

14 06 2016

Part of the work that I do as an AT Specialist is to help teachers and therapists select, acquire, and use apps for children in their programs. I was honored to present to the SimpleK12 learning community a webinar on the Top 10 Apps for Children with Autism. \

Here are my Top 10 Apps for Children with Autism (in no particular order)

  1. Proloquo2Go
  2. TouchChatHD
  3. Pictello
  4. Choiceworks
  5. Visual Schedule Planner
  6. Autism DTT Pro
  7. The Social Express II
  8. Cause and Effect Sensory Light Box
  9. The Zones of Regulation
  10. Autism Tracker Pro

Here is the link to the presentation.

To view the webinar on, Click here 

Have an app that makes your top 10? Leave a comment! I hope this list is helpful as you work with children with Autism in building independence!




App Wheels

21 11 2013

I stumbled across some really cool blogs and wikis. One is by Alan Stewart, who shared this app wheel for apps for students with Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities.
iPad appsDyslexia


The other wiki I’ve known about for a while is apps4Stages. Started by Madalaine Pugliese, who is the Program Director for Assistive Special Education Technology; Associate Professor of Practice in Special Education at Simmons college, she and her students have come up with some amazing app wheels that contain a wealth of information regarding the relationship between apps and bloom’s Taxonomy, as well as seven developmental stages of app use for children with significant disabilities.

ASD Wheel Full Pickering_Padagogy_2012 padwheelV2.001

For those that are visual, these would be great to post in classrooms, or to use on a bulletin board, or to just add to your list of bookmarks/pins/diigo lists!

Five Fabulous Free Apps Every Teacher Should Have

18 11 2012

The following list is definitely not a be all, end all for apps, but these 5 apps are powerful sharing, creation, and assessment tools for teachers. Plus, they’re free!

1. Dropbox:

Dropbox is one of the best cloud-based file storage and sharing systems out there. WIth the ability to install Dropbox on any computer or mobile device, Dropbox uses the cloud to store files and pictures. Set up a free account and have 2GB of free storage- which is quite a bit for files. Also, Dropbox is great to share files to others via e-mail that may be too large to send as attachments. It’s versatile, multi-platform, easy to set up and use.

Teachers could use dropbox by having students send their work to the teacher’s dropbox. Or they could set up their own Dropbox account and share the assignment (file) to their teacher via e-mail. Teachers could then download the work, mark it, and share back to the student.

I use Dropbox all the time for files that I want to use between devices or need access to on multiple devices. It has been a lifesaver in keeping me organized for school and work.

2. Evernote

Evernote is another cloud-based app that can be installed on any computer or mobile device. It offers the same syncing features as Dropbox, but for notes that are taken within the app. However, Evernote is more than just a note taking app. Users can add photos and record audio to create a multi-media note that can be shared and/or viewed on any computer or device that it’s synced to.

There are a multitude of practical applications for Evernote in the classroom. Create a notebook for each student and upload students work to their notebook for a digital portfolio. Use the audio recording feature to record reading fluency. Take a picture of the student reading the book, and have the student answer questions by typing or recording their answers  right in the app.  Lastly, teachers can also use Evernote to observe the learning environment by taking pictures of students in group work, record observations by typing into the app, and record audio of students engaged in dialogue. There is not limit to the uses of Evernote in the classroom.

I use Evernote for evaluations, as well as for taking notes in meetings and observations. It’s great to be able to go to another device and have the note right there where I can access it when I need to.

3. Haiku Deck for iPad

Haiku Deck for iPad is an app to create visual presentations. Select a theme, insert photos and text- viola! A presentation that can be shared via e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter. The interface is simple to use, and there is enough variety within the app to make a spectacular presentation.

Teachers could use Haiku Deck with their students for projects, for book reports, to show mathematical processes and thinking, science experiments, all about me activities, and more. It’s up to the user’s imagination, really on how to incorporate Haiku Deck into the learning environment.

I used Haiku Deck to make a presentation of my learnings from a recent conference, then shared it with others. It was a visually powerful way to demonstrate understanding- which could be done with students as well.

4. Videolicious

Videolicious is a super easy way to narrate photographs. In the free version, there is a 10 photograph limit, but  I don’t see that as a negative. Record as you swipe the picture, and it all syncs together so seamlessly! There’s no timing to worry about, no cues other than your swiping the picture into the narration frame.

Once the narration is complete, it’s a slick video slide show with crisp narration and music. Teachers could use Videolicious for lessons, but for student use in an infinite number of ways. Students could narrate about themselves, or about their cumulative artwork for a “Virtual Art Gallery” walk that can be shared with parents.

5. Tiny Tap, Moments Into Games – Create Free Educational Books and Games for Kids

Tiny Tap allows teachers to make interactive games for students. First, select the pictures you want to use. Then,  record your questions by tapping on each picture and then tapping the record button. Then select the portion of the picture that’s your answer. It’s that simple! Not sure what to make? Check out their store for free and paid games that are available for download.

The potential for this app is intriguing, particularly for Early Childhood, Dual Language Learners, and for students Autism. For any student that is working on vocabulary identification, this is a great app to use! What a fun and engaging way to teach concepts from the natural environment (i.e. familiar objects). While I haven’t tried this one yet, I’m eager to share this app with others.

Devices and Flight- Not Just Playing Angry Birds

26 08 2012

Flying can be fun. It can also be scary for some. But for an individual with a disability, it may be difficult, and sometimes, it may just be less than a positive experience.

Recently, Carly Fleischmann, who is a 16 year old girl with Autism, was travelling. She was told to shut off her iPad, which happens to be her communication device.  Fortunately, the pilot allowed her to keep her device on, in airplane mode so that she could use it to communicate.

There seems to be a huge disconnect between the disability community and the general public. Assistive Technology is all around us. We use it in our everyday lives, and don’t realize it. Your iPad, iPhone, even a pencil, can be considered a piece of Assistive Technology. If I were on a flight, and were told to not speak during takeoff and landing, I guess I’d be able to do so. However, to literally take away someone’s “voice”- whether it be an iPad or a dedicated AAC device- is akin to removing an individual’s wheelchair, or not allowing an individual who is deaf to sign.

I think what bothers me the most is that the assumption was made that Carly had her iPad to play games, to watch videos, of whatever. However, like many individuals with disabilities that rely on Assistive Technology to integrate into their environment, this was clearly not the case. The lack of understanding is what bothers me. It doesn’t take much time to try to understand. We have become increasingly self-involved, and I fear that by doing this, we’ve lost some of our compassion, our ability to understand and accept differences – and make accommodations when it’s needed.

While I cannot speak to how Carly felt, I am hopeful that this will spark some real change in how the airlines view technology – particularly for students with disabilities. I have no issue turning off my phone, laptop, or iPad during takeoff or landing, but I sure would if it were my only means to communicate.

Maybe someday, children like Carly and others with disabilities won’t have to deal with this kind of thing.

60 Minutes Segment:Thoughts

31 10 2011

Recently, there was a story on 60 Minutes that featured the iPad and apps for individuals with Autism.

While I can agree that the iPad is a revolutionary tool for students with a variety of disabilities, not just Autism, I tend to take the 60 Minutes piece as a piece for the masses. From a practitioner’s point of view, my perspective is different.

I’m not the only one to think this way.

In a blog post by Adam Slota from ASHA, he speaks about the skewed view of the 60 Minutes piece gives in terms of the iPad. Simply “prescribe the iPad as a panacea for autism treatment, you know, just give the kid an iPad and he’ll be on his way to communicating and that it’ll unlock an new and undiscovered portal into their minds that we never knew existed”.

Another blogger and long-time AT professional, Jeanette Van Houten speaks to the importance of finding the right TOOL for the end user. This message is not conveyed at all in the 60 Minutes piece. In fact, it detracts from the powerful tool that the iPad truly is and makes it seem that without the iPad, any and all therapies, teaching, and techniques that have been proven to work with individuals with Autism are virtually worthless. At least that’s how the piece felt to me.

No one can deny the potential of the iPad as a powerful TOOL for learning for individuals with special needs- not just Autism. While there are a variety of Augmentative Communication Devices on the market that may provide the same function, yes, the iPad can be a lower-cost alternative. But before one goes forth and declares an iPad for one and all, it is wisest to do the homework and make an informed decision.

This is true of ANY tool that is used to enhance the educational experience of a student. Training, data collection, careful evaluation, and ongoing assessment must be in place before making a determination. Teams must ask the following:

1. What is it we want students to be able to know?

2. How do we know they’ve learned it?

3. What happens when they don’t?

Looking at the setting, environment, tasks and tools is also a key component to assessing what, if any, Assistive Technology needs to be in place. Furthermore, student buy in is critical. If they don’t like it- they are not going to use it.

While I’ve been fortunate to see first hand how the iPad can benefit students with Autism, it was done with careful planning, training, and assessment. Thoughtful implementation and consideration of matching the app to the learner is critical. Ensuring that the iPad is used as a tool for learning, communication, etc is paramount. Otherwise the iPad will amount to nothing than a flash in the pan or a glorified TV. This would be the greatest disservice to those that benefit from the device the most.