New Apps for Enhanced Communication Skills Show Promise for People with Autism

The inability to communicate effectively is one of the hallmarks of an autism diagnosis, leaving severely affected individuals with extremely limited options in expressing thoughts, emotions, and needs. Advancing technologies, however, are proving to be a breakthrough in achieving greatly enhanced communication abilities for many people with extremely limited speech, including those who are non-verbal.  Touch-screen applications for computerized devices such as the iPad have become increasingly popular in recent years, with success stories from parents and teachers growing by the day in news accounts and social media venues.

There are now thousands of apps for iPad and other devices to address a vast array of specific deficits in communication, from identifying different feelings to improving social skills.  Prices vary quite a bit from one app to another depending on features, quality of graphics, ability to customize, etc.  Here are a few apps getting mostly positive online reviews from parents and educators working with children with autism:

  • Grace - Picture Exchange for Non-Verbal People By Steven Troughton-Smith, this app is especially popular for transitioning from a traditional Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) to touch-screen technology, and is recommended for children with autism, teachers, support staff, and family members. $37.99
  • iCommunicate From Grembe Inc., iCommunicate allows the customizable creation of visual schedules, storyboards, communication boards, flash cards, choice boards, speech cards, and more. Reviewers cite excellent customer support and ease of navigation among the pros of iCommunicate.  $49.99
  • All About Me By i Get It, LLC, All About Me offers picture and text support to individuals learning their personal information. Icons representing the child’s name, address, birthday, home address, telephone number, family members’ names, pets, school, friends, favorite items, things I like, places I go and computer favorites are all included. These icons can be individualized with written text, audio and personal photos for added visual support. $.99
  • TapToTalk™ By Assistyx LLC, TapToTalk turns an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch into an augmentative and alternative communication device. TapToTalk makes communication fun, like another “game” on this cool device. Just tap a picture and TapToTalk speaks. Each picture can lead to another screen of pictures.  TapToTalk displays a page of pictures on the screen. When you tap a picture, TapToTalk plays a word or sentence and displays another page of pictures. Each of those pictures can lead to another page, and so on, up to ten levels deep.  FREE
  • First Then Visual Schedule By Good Karma Applications, Inc., First-Then Visual Schedule is designed for caregivers to provide positive behavior support. For individuals with communication needs, developmental delays, autism or those who benefit from a structured environment; visual schedules serve to increase independence and lower anxiety during transitions through different activities. The app is fully customizable and uses your own photos or those from the built-in internet image search feature.  $9.99.
  • Math Magic By Anusen Inc., Math Magic uses a combination of your choice of vibrant colors, simple interface and a reward system of stars to encourage and teach kids between the ages of 3 and 8. Easy to use, the child simply has to tap on an answer to solve the problem. Whether they get the answer right or not, a real voice expresses appreciation for the child choosing a response. Once the correct answer has been achieved, just shake your iPhone or iPod Touch and a new math problem will appear. Five successful answers results in a colored star as a reward. Math Magic lets you adjust the levels to customize them for your child. $.99

The chance for improved communication abilities is looking brighter for individuals with autism as a growing number of parents and teachers can attest. If you’re looking into iPad technology for your child or student with autism, keep in mind that updates are frequently made to apps and prices fluctuate depending on the versions purchased.  For more information on the benefits if iPad technology, go to our blog section post “Autism Inside-out: Until he speaks,” by Kim Linderman. .


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