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10 essential apps for autism - what to do while school is out

iPad apps are an essential learning tool for children on the autism spectrum. Apps are not only fun, convenient, un-breakable and engaging, but they also offer extra benefits of building communication, language, fine motor, literacy and life skills.

No matter where you live, chances are good that your children are not attending school during the coronavirus outbreak. Why not make the most of this time together and provide your child with the ever-lasting gift of a few apps to pass the time and continue their learning at home? Apps make the perfect learning tool and won’t break the budget. These digital classrooms range from Free to $9.99.

Language thrives with social interaction, ESPECIALLY with the parents or caregiver. When you are attending to the same thing, interacting, and providing rich language input, your child is learning (Kuhl, 2010). Toca Boca games, for example, are great because they open-ended and allow you to talk about language concepts from descriptors and pronouns to categories and verbs. HOWEVER, if you are not there to add the language in, the child is not receiving any meaningful language input. Here are some tips to practice for the next three weeks –

Language thrives with social interaction, ESPECIALLY with the parents or caregiver. When you are attending to the same thing, interacting, and providing rich language input, your child is learning (Kuhl, 2010). Toca Boca games, for example, are great because they open-ended and allow you to talk about language concepts from descriptors and pronouns to categories and verbs. HOWEVER, if you are not there to add the language in, the child is not receiving any meaningful language input. Here are some tips to practice for the next three weeks —

Parallel talk -Talk out loud about what your child is doing, or commenting on anything that is happening. For example, “I’m cooking the vegetables,” or “look; you just blew up that zombie village.”

Expansion – Use 1 more word than your child is using. For example, if your child says, “that yellow” you can say, “that bird yellow.”

Modeling – Tell them what you want them to say. For example, if your child says, “ball” you can say, “like ball,” or “play ball.”

Turn-Taking – this will reinforce good pragmatic skills and tolerance for sharing.

Following is a list of some of the best, tried-and-true, apps recommended by speech pathologists, assistive technology specialists, occupational therapists and most importantly the children themselves. Kids love these apps …

1.InnerVoice: Full-Feature Communication app

InnerVoice will immerse you into a total communication environment — where you not only hear the desired message but see it being produced. This award-winning, patented, and affordable app takes full advantage of all the iPad has to offer. With 3D animated avatars, Microsoft Azure artificial intelligence (AI), 50+ TTS voices, video stories and much, much more this affordable app is a must for all those who have communication challenges.

InnerVoice incorporates Edutainment — teaching through a medium that both educates & entertains surprises & amazes. Price has been slashed to $4.99 so that all families can have access to a full-featured communication app while spending time at home.

2. Toca Doctor: Let your Kids play Virtual Doctor

Toca Doctor is a fun and puzzling digital toy for kids. Examine the patients and play puzzles and mini-games that take place in the human body. There are no timers or stress elements so that kids can play in their own time. If they can’t finish any certain game it still continues so that they never get stuck. It always works and it’s always fun!

Help your child identify body parts while giving them the language they need to identify and treat different types of “hurt.” Learning what hurt or ouch means and identifying where the body part associated with the discomfort is one of the biggest challenges children with autism have communicating to an adult. Toca Doctor is a stress-free way to introduce the concept of pain, body parts and first aid to children.

Any Toca Boca app is a great, stress-free learning app that will bring many hours of fun, real-life concepts, and language.

3. This is a Double-Header, two great, kid approved (and occupational therapist approved) apps for tracing. Your child will never know they are practicing fine motor & literacy skills.

Touch and Write: Kids Love Learning to Write

Letter School: Makes Handwriting Cool!

Kids love learning to write – especially when they can use shaving cream, paint, and jello!

An amazing, intuitive game to learn all about letters and numbers: writing, counting, phonics and more

Touch and Write & Letter School are sooooo much fun to use that child will use it in their “free” time. Even children who have had challenges with fine motor skills for years are motivated to write with their favorite texture and animations. Each app offers a multitude of choices such as embedded word lists (including sight words), letter styles, custom lists, writing paper, and many more parents can direct the play and children never know they are practicing fine motor and literacy skills.

4. My Play Home: A Digital Doll House for the iGeneration –

Massively interactive — your kids can explore and use everything in the house. The characters eat, sleep, shower, brush their teeth and more. Want the room to be darker? Close the drapes! Fancy a change in music? Pop a different CD into the stereo!

Language, concepts, social skills, life skills and much more can be absorbed while your children are amusing themselves with My Play Home. Characters in this app can be changed to fit the imagination of your child.

5.The Monster at the end of this Book:

The Monster at the End of This Book enhances the classic Sesame Street book with a completely immersive experience that draws children right into the story. Join lovable, furry old Grover as he tries his very hardest to tie down pages and build brick walls— all to keep readers away from the monster at the end of this book. The all-time favorite you loved as a child comes alive for today’s young readers with interactive play, plus touch-point animation.

The Monster at the End of This Book will open-up the world of literacy for your child. Your child will read it again and again. After your child has mastered the iPad app, you can then get the hardcover book. Your child can then transfer their new reading skills to the hardcover and read for themselves. Encouraging a healthy love for books is a priceless gift for any child.

6.GoNoodle – Kids Videos:

GoNoodle was developed by a team of seasoned designers, educators, child development specialists, and researchers. All GoNoodle videos are created by our team of child development experts working with choreographers, athletes and mindfulness experts who specialize in kid content.

GoNoodle together — Have a family dance-off, do sibling yoga, or groove to your favorite songs! GoNoodle makes the time you have with your kids more colorful, silly, music-filled, and happy.

GoNoodle to get something done — Fold the laundry, finish typing an email, or snag a moment of peace while kids play GoNoodle. GoNoodle helps days run smoothly by pacing your routine and adding activities parents feel good about!

GoNoodle on-the-go — Dance in the carpool line, while waiting for dinner, or hanging at a sibling’s soccer game. GoNoodle brings more movement into your everyday places, spaces, and routines. 7. “The Talkers:” A group of apps that repeat what you say and interact with the user.

This is a group of apps that foster communication by providing a fun motivating environment to practice expressive language skills. Each Character Talker has a unique set of reactions to your gestures and commands. Talking Ginger will help out with those important hygiene routines, Talking Rex and Tom will encourage language concepts such as verbs, cause and effect and comedy.

Let your children express their creativity with Talking Characters. Then make a recording and share with friends, family and social network. These recordings can also serve as messages that allow your child to communicate their thoughts in a fun way.

8. My Story School eBook Maker

My Story combines drawing, stickers, photos, voice, and text to promote literacy, language development, and creativity in ebook format. Share the book on the web, social networks, email, or directly to iBooks. Your child’s story, art, coloring, photos, ideas, and voice recordings are saved forever!

Storytelling is a fantastic way to promote literacy, comprehension, creative thinking, and self-driven learning.

9. Cake Doodle:

Crack the eggs, shake the salt, pour in the liquids, squeeze the lemon, mash the bananas, sift the flour, and toss in the dry ingredients. Blend the batter and bake your cake in our super-fast oven.

Eat the cake yourself when you’re done or save it to your photo album. Surprise your friends with a customized cake e-mailed to them on their special day.

All the Cooking Doodle apps by Shoe the Goose provide realistic learning opportunities for children and teens as they teach important skills and language concepts that can then be generalized into everyday life

10. First Words Professional

First Words Professional uses the same intuitive interface that is so easy for preschoolers, kindergartners, and kids with special needs to use. They’ll giggle with delight at the beautifully drawn pictures and matching entertaining sounds, all the while learning how letters correspond to sounds and how letters sounds form words.

Believe it or not, kids love this app and adults have the control to adjust levels to match the individual needs of the child. Maybe it’s the clean friendly format or the sound effects and spin-outs that “hook” the children, never-the-less it is an entertaining learning app and huge language, literacy booster.

First Words has several versions including a Free Sampler.

These essential “Learning” apps were inspired by working and playing with children on the autism spectrum. They have been rigorously tested and used by educators, speech pathologists, assistive technology specialists, occupational therapists and parents. We have had significant success helping children meet their developmental milestones and it is our sincerest hope that you will too. Although these great “Learning” apps were compiled while working with children on the spectrum, we have found they work equally well for children with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and various developmental delays, as well as typically developing preschoolers.

**Pro Tip: make sure to turn on guided access (google how to turn on guided access when using a tablet) to lock your child into whichever app you want him to use. This will encourage focus, learning, and will help prevent a waning attention span.

Use Guided Access with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

Guided Access limits your device to a single app and lets you control which features are available. You can turn on Guided Access when you let a child use your device, or when accidental gestures might distract you.

Set up Guided Access

1. Go to Settings > Accessibility, then turn on Guided Access. 2. Tap Passcode Settings, then tap Set Guided Access Passcode. 3. Enter a passcode, then re-enter it. From here, you can also turn on Face ID or Touch ID as a way to end a Guided Access session.

Start a Guided Access session

1. Open the app that you want. 2. On an iPhone X or later, triple-click the side button. On an iPhone 8 or earler, triple-click the Home button. 3. If you want parts of your screen to stop responding to touch, use one finger to circle those areas. You can move or resize the circle, or tap the X to remove it. 4. Tap Guided Access, then tap Start.

Alternatively, you can start a Guided Access session with Siri*, open the app that you want, then tell Siri “Turn on Guided Access.” Control which features are available

1. To turn off features or set a time limit, triple-click the Side or Home button, then tap Options. If you don’t see Options, triple-click the Side or Home button again and enter your passcode. 2. Turn on the options that you want, then tap Done.

End a Guided Access session

Triple-click the Side or Home button, enter your Guided Access passcode, then tap End. Or if you turned on Touch ID or Face ID for Guided Access, double-click the Side or Home button.

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