iPhone apps that can help serve special needs kids

Nov 9, 2011
Education

Engaging special needs children requires a distinctive skill set, not least among them patience. But modern technology also has plenty to offer in the way of tools that foster communication and motivation. So if you are the parent or teacher of a special-needs child, put your iPhone to good use and download these iPhone apps. […]

Engaging special needs children requires a distinctive skill set, not least among them patience. But modern technology also has plenty to offer in the way of tools that foster communication and motivation. So if you are the parent or teacher of a special-needs child, put your iPhone to good use and download these iPhone apps. They will help both you and the little one make the most of their day.

The free TapToTalk app is designed to allow children who struggle to speak, or otherwise communicate, to express themselves. It includes an album of photos depicting everyday activities, such as an automobile in motion or children playing, and a complementary audio message. For example, if your child needs to use the bathroom, they can tap on the image of a toilet and the app states “I need to go to the bathroom.” Albums can be customized with users’ personal photos.

Related iPhone App List: Favorite Apps 4 Children w/ Special Needs

Talking certainly isn’t the only way to communicate, and the iSpeech Toddler Sign Language app ($1.99) is designed to train users in basic signs. It includes an extensive list of commonly-used words and phrases, as well as accompanying animation that clearly depicts how to make the gestures.

Older children who find it difficult to speak might like the free Talk Assist app which allows users to type in any phrase or sentence and then have it spoken out loud for them. The app includes a feature that will allow the user to store commonly-used phrases so that they can be easily employed.

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Children with autism, among other disabilities, might find it difficult to make eye contact with others. The Eye Contact – Toybox app ($2.99) allows your child to practice that very important social skill. It functions largely as a game. A smiling face fills the screen and the player is directed to look directly into the eyes of the individual. A pair of matching numbers then flashes on their pupils, and the player is asked what number appeared on the screen. After a successful round, the player is rewarded with a toy that is added to an electronic toy box.

A lack of awareness of time is a common symptom of autism, but one that can be managed with the right tools. The $2.99 Autism Timer app is a great investment. It clearly indicates the passage of time with brightly colored bars that disappear based on the time increments set by the user. Once time is up, the app beeps, and shows a black and white checkered flag.

Setting clear goals, and incentivizing them with rewards is important for all children, but all the more so for those with special needs. The iEarned That app ($1.99) helps adults do just that. Create an entry for each child by listing their name, age, picture and so on. Then, add goals and accompanying rewards. For example, you can link an activity like walking the dog with a chocolate chip cookie, or cleaning a bedroom with 30 minutes of television watching. The way the child know exactly what the expectations are and what the outcome will be.

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Related iPhone App Lists: Apps for Special Needs

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Megan O'Neil

Megan O'Neil is a journalist and freelance writer in Los Angeles. When she isn't lounging at the beach or socializing in the Hollywood Hills, she writes for the Park Labrea New/Beverly Press newspaper and the Los Angeles Times Community News Group.

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