Apple has revolutionized the way people can communicate and learn. Over 600 universities are listed on iTunes U, which is home to 250,000 free lectures, videos and podcasts. iPods are widely used as on-the-go learning devices by individual learners and students. But it’s the company’s touch screen tablet, the iPad and it’s avallable apps, that gave voice to individuals with autism. If you’re a parent, special education professional or therapist, you can’t afford to miss the learning opportunities iPad apps has to offer. This is truly a “miracle device”.
Autism iPad Apps to the Rescue
You can get a sense of how useful an iPad app is just by listening to anecdotal evidence from parents and special needs professionals. In 2009, the first real augmented and alternative communication (ACC) app Proloquo2Go was released for the iPhone. Its creator, Amsterdam-based AssistiveWare, released a company survey showing that half of Proloquo2Go users reported improved speech abilities. Ninety percent of the app users use an iPad and more than 25% more use an iPhone or iPod Touch.
Proloquo2Go is an app of great promise. More than a dozen of stories culled from reliable sources online point to the same conclusion. If you’re looking for that one life-changing app to help your child communicate and learn, there’s Proloquo2Go. It’s one iPad app that has positively affected families for a small price of $219.
The app’s main page is made of very simple icons with labels like “Basics,” “Comments,” “Help,” “I need,” “I want,” “Manners,” “Word Spaces,” and more. Under Basics, users can find phrases like “My name is…,” “I’m this old,” and other basic phrases helpful to students with autism. What’s more, you can personalize the app by adding icons, voice and language.
AssistiveWare has another useful app called Pictello, which works like a storybook. For $18.99, parents and professionals can create an accessible book using the app. Think of it as a Proloquo2Go of social stories. With it you can upload a picture and record your voice to tell a story. Or you can simply type words and let the app convert it using Text-to-Speech. You can even control the speech rate, transitions, pronunciation and more.
Singapore-based Hearty SPIN is another company that specialize in AAC apps. Its winning app, Picture AACTM, has helped speech-impaired individuals communicate effectively using pictures. It’s used by many special education teachers and therapists, parents and careers in more than 30 countries worldwide. Consider the app as a digital version of your traditional communication books/boards, only that it’s more flexible, portable or mobile, and easily accessible. Parents, teachers and caregivers who find conventional communication books cumbersome consider this app a lifesaver.
Finding More Good iPad Apps for Helping Autistic Students
Many more apps were designed to help children with severe communication disorders using the AAC method. Apple’s App Store has more than 760 apps for individuals with autism. Google’s Android operating system also has a dozen similar apps for tablets and other mobile devices.
You can search online for other reliable AAC apps for the iPad. Read reviews and stories by parents and professionals who care for learners with autism. This Google spreadsheet can also help you decide which useful app or program should you try next. It’s a comprehensive list of apps under several categories such as gaming, social stories, speech, productivity, self-care, social skills and many more. The spreadsheet also includes websites that review apps for autistic individuals and websites that offer iPad grants, donations and fundraising assistance.
Specialized Autism Learning Tool is Affordable
iPads are available for as low as $399. Premium AAC apps, which you’ll own forever, cost between 99 cents and $299.99. Many of these feature-packed apps may seem rather expensive for regular iPad users but they’re worth every cent for users with special needs. This is arguably the cheapest and best learning platform you can invest in.
iPads offer mobility and flexibility which means users with autism can always have them wherever they go. They can learn, stay calm and focus wherever they are.