According to 2014 CDC statistics, approximately 1% of people in the world have autism spectrum disorder. In the United States, this number is higher, 1 out of 68 – up 6-15% between 2002 and 2010. It is considered the fastest growing developmental disability. The good news is that children on the autistic spectrum are being diagnosed earlier in life and are receiving the treatment they need in order to bridge the gap between how they see the world and how society sees it. This makes life less intimidating for children with autism, and helps put their families at ease as well. Technology has played a big role in helping these children make forward strides, and one of the tools that is being used at home, school, and in therapy is the iPad.
iPad applications gives children with autism something tangible and non-threatening to focus on as they either work on areas that challenge them, or celebrate areas where they excel. Here are some applications that can yield a good deal of benefit.
The iPrompts application works primarily as a scheduling board with the added benefit of a timer and pictures. Children are shown pictures of tasks they need to complete with a simultaneous timer showing them when that task should end. It can also help with making choices by showing just a few options on the screen and making that choice less intimidating.
Musical talent is a common area where many children with autism find comfort and excel. By using the Garage Band Application children can get a taste of what it feels like to play a variety of instruments. They can record themselves playing, and even learn to write their own music.
ABA Flash Cards – Emotions
Developing empathy for others is difficult for many children on the autistic spectrum. The average person will determine the emotions of others by reading their body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Of these, facial expressions offers perhaps the biggest clues to the feelings of others, and the ABA Flash Cards application uses photos and asks the user to identify the emotion based on the photo, so the child can learn and carry that skill into their life.
Another way for children with autism to develop their sense of empathy is through relating to an animal and caring for it. While it is not always possible to get a pet and give the child the bulk of the responsibility in caring for it, an autistic child can have a comparable experience through the My Horse iPad application. The child can name the horse, and become registered as its owner. The application lets the owner know the horse’s needs, such as when he is hungry, or wants to play, needs to rest, or needs a clean stall. If the child knows others with the same application they can also compare and discuss their pets and embrace the world beyond themselves.
Kid in Story
This is a story making app that allows children or adults to create stories where they can incorporate elements of their own life. Occasions that are challenging, such as traveling or going through a transition can be mapped out within the story, taking much of the ambiguity away from the event itself. The main iPad application cost $6.99, but the Reader Companion application is free and it allows the stories created to be shared with family, educators, or therapists.
My Playhome is a computerized dollhouse. Anything that a child might do while playing with a dollhouse; making dinner in the kitchen, sitting everyone down in the living room for a game, or putting the kids to bed at night, can be done with the My Playhome application. Autistic and other children can explore the day to day social workings of a household without having to crowd around a physical dollhouse, and with the ability to access more virtual pieces and people that don’t take up any actual physical space. They can initially explore this through the safety of their iPad, and when they are ready they can share their ideas with the people they are most comfortable with.
The Pictello app allows users to create audio stories and books by using their own photos. By using recognizable photos, children can relate to these stories, get a better handle on how to behave in various situations, and even communicate through the stories during those times when it is more difficult to communicate directly.
The Endless Alphabet takes learning to read and expanding vocabulary to a whole new level by introducing letters and words in a way that is not necessarily expected, such as “a is for apple.” Instead, bigger words with more syllables are introduced along with music and animation that makes language interactive and fun.
Many autistic children find a lot of joy out of music or watching videos, but simply searching for these might bring up content that parents aren’t prepared to have their child see. With iTubeList, parents, teachers, or other authority figures can create extensive playlists that their child can access independently.
Talking Character Apps from Outfit7
The Outfit7 apps began with Talking Tom and more applications were developed as Tom started to make “friends” including, their original talking cat, Talking Tom, the dog Talking Bob, the dinosaur Talking Rex, and even Talking Bacteria. Children can develop language skills by listening to and interacting with these various characters by playing games and working through puzzles.