Tag Archives: Apps

Communication Apps for Autistic Children

Communication is at the heart of learning. Traditional arguments on whether or not technology can help in education, have become more complex, in the context of children with autism and their communication needs. Much has been discussed about the potential of mobile apps for children with autism, which can be readily seen in the field of communication, particularly augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Mobile devices running these apps have opened up a whole new world of opportunities for those with limited expressive communication skills. But the huge potential of mobile technologies hasn’t been fully realized. Rather, these technologies are mainly implemented as speech prostheses in a limited range of activities.

Parents and educators have to broaden the scope of using these devices, not only for using inside the classroom and the therapeutic domain. Practice is the key with apps for children with autism, so that they can successfully use tabs and smart phones as communication aids. All those involved with autistic children should practice using the apps along with the novice learners. Continuous practice should happen both at school and home for successful outcomes.

It’s important to remember that apps for children with autism alone can’t improve communication. A supportive environment which complements the app is crucial in this regard. The symbol system used in apps for children with autism, has to be incorporated into a wider environment with which the autistic child has to eventually cope up with. Collaboration with parents is another important aspect to ensure a consistent approach towards core word modeling outside the school. Parents are often reluctant to use apps for children with autism as a potential communication aid, hoping that language and communication skills would automatically develop down the years. There are around 250,000 words in the English language. About 200 of these words constitute 80% of our everyday use.

A common concern among parents of autistic children is that their child may become over-reliant on these apps for communication. Studies, however, have revealed that apps for children with autism, both high and low-tech, help to kick start speech. For many autistic children who are unlikely to speak ever because of language reproduction difficulties, these apps can become their voice. Use of synthesized, rather than digitized speech, has come a remarkably long way over the past several years, allowing apps for children with autism to sound more natural and personal.

Many autistic children use associative instead of linear thinking. Strong image processing skills allow them to associate symbols with words. It helps them to get a sense of the world around them, become language competent, and allow greater access to parts of the curriculum they previously couldn’t. If there’s a nonverbal or a minimum-speaking child in your classroom, apps for children with autism can help him/her pick up communication skills.

But at the same time, it’s important to remember that an app user can’t pick up communication skills overnight. It’ll take time for both the child and his/her communication partner to master the app. Be patient and with time and you can see the benefits.

Apps to the Help of Special Needs Children

Portable electronic devices like tabs and iPads are proving to be invaluable resources to impart communication and social skills to children having developmental disabilities like autism spectrum disorder or Asperger’s syndrome. Hundreds of specialized apps are available for download that can run on these devices. Apps like What’s the Expression and All Sorts! are helping special needs children pick up important skills.

The What’s the Expression app helps kids to express themselves in a better way. Children with autism spectrum disorder often can’t understand how to express themselves in various situations. This particular app was made to address the developmental issue. Special needs children have to learn how to express emotions like happiness, anger, surprise, sadness etc. The What’s the Expression helps them to do just that.

Sorting, on the other hand, is a basic skill which children usually pick up by observing their elders. But it could be a difficult exercise for those having autism spectrum disorder. All Sorts helps children to observe various concepts and objects in a single place and group them according to the commonness in their features.

The elusive cool factor of these two apps for autistic children can’t be overlooked. But it’s their versatility that’s particularly appealing to the parents of these kids. Katherine Fisher, a product reviewer and the mother of an autistic child herself, said that she tested several apps for autistic children and found these two the most appropriate. They delivered what they promised. Both What’s the Expression and All Sorts can cross over to the more general children-education apps, Katherine said, adding that these two apps are regularly updated.

There are various other useful apps that have been designed to help both adults and children affected with Down syndrome, Lou Gherig’s Disease, cerebral palsy and similar disabilities.

Children with autism spectrum disorder are showing major signs of improvement after playing with such fun-filled apps on their tabs and iPads. According to a recent study in Australia, corrective behavior was reinforced with the help of images and voiceover, on 10 autistic children who couldn’t wash their hands. Researchers claim that more than 60% of their objective was successful.

But nearly 70% of autistic children falter in motor skills, and that includes poor movement planning. These children may find it difficult to operate the small buttons of a tablet or smartphone. But the iPad, with its larger size, is usually more accessible to autistic children.

A major reason why portable devices like tabs and iPads have become particularly popular among parents, is the relatively lesser cost of these gadgets compared to the heavy, and expensive text-to-speech devices.

Take the case of 7-year old Rio, an autistic child. Before the iPad came into the market, Rio’s autism made him dependent on others for play, entertainment, communication, and learning. But with the iPad, Rio now electrifies the atmosphere with his newly-acquired independence and skills. Those who have known Rio, are amazed to see the boy’s transformation. He really rocks with his iPad and a set of apps for autistic children.