Children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have a broad range of skill sets and levels. As such, it’s difficult to find one-size-fits-all apps that are suitable for every child with autism.
We’ve compiled a list of the most well-received assistive tech apps for helping children with ASD. Our list covers apps designed to support children of a range of ages and abilities with focus areas including communication, education, emotional support, and daily routine.
Best Assistive Tech Apps for Children with Autism
Here is our list of the best assistive apps for children with ASD:
Proloquo2Go is a hugely popular Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) app. It’s designed to help non-verbal users communicate through the use of symbols. The basic premise is that tapping a sequence of symbols, photos, or text will produce sentences that are both written and spoken by the app.
Proloquo’s easy-to-use and customizable design makes it suitable for a wide range of ages and skill levels. There are dozens of natural-sounding voice options available including male, female, adult, and child voices. A history feature in the app works in a similar way to smart technology by allowing easy access to recently spoken items.
You can download apps for iOS and MacOS. The main barrier to using this platform is its price, which is currently $249.99.
Don’t need symbols and images? Proloquo4Text is a text-only version of the app that’s also available for MacOS and iOS. With this iteration, you simply choose full words to be written and spoken by the app. Proloquo4Text is highly intuitive and includes word and sentence prediction, allowing for quick and accurate typing and speech.
Life360 can be a great help in allowing older children and young adults to have a little more independence. If you’re ready to let your child venture out away from home, but still need to keep tabs, Life360 is a solid solution. This app can show you the location of users based on where their phone is.
It also has features that will notify you if the user has arrived at or left a particular location such as home or school. An add-on will inform you if the user is involved in a car accident. Users can communicate with each other via the app.
The basic version of Life360 is free and includes location tracking, battery monitoring, location ETA, help alerts, two place alerts, and a two-day history. The Plus version is $2.99 per month and includes crime reports, unlimited place alerts, and a 30-day history. For $7.99 per month, the Driver Protect plan gives you crash detection, emergency response, roadside assistance, and driver reports.
Life360 is available for Android and iOS. It’s worth noting that the Android version of the app has been better received than the iOS version. The main complaint in the latter is that the location tracking can sometimes be off, so this is something worth considering when deciding if this is a good solution for you and your family.
3. Avaz AAC
This is another highly-regarded AAC app which is a bit less expensive than Proloquo2Go, although at $199.99, it’s not exactly cheap. That said, there is the option to pay on a monthly or annual basis.
Avaz helps children and adults who face communication challenges through the use of pictures and text. Unlike some AAC apps, this one is very straightforward to use and personalize. It allows you to expand the available vocabulary as your child grows and provides metrics so you can see their development.
Avaz AAC is available for iOS and Android.
It’s common for children on the autism spectrum to struggle with staying on task. I’m On It!: Focus Timer is available to help anyone who has a hard time retaining focus. This app helps users realize when and why they are distracted and to gauge time periods.
The main feature of this simplistic app is a timer that can be set for up to 60 minutes. The remaining time is represented in three ways: a traditional clock face, a digital timer, and a progress bar.
You can also set a reminder (audible or vibration) to go off at regular intervals. At these points, the user is prompted to identify if they were paying attention or not. The number of reminders is adjustable depending on how long the user is able to focus.
This free app is available for Android only.
MITA (Mental Imagery Therapy for Autism) is an early-intervention app designed specifically for young children with ASD. Studies have shown that teaching children to integrate various features of an object can help with general learning. Based on this theory, the MITA app offers colorful, interactive puzzles that are designed to help improve development of visual, language, and attention skills.
Games focus on a particular skill and vary in complexity. Each comprises many levels so that the user can develop their skills and feel a sense of achievement while progressing.
This app is available for Android and iOS.
Choiceworks is a great tool for aiding children with following daily routines and easing transitions. It can also help users control and understand their feelings, as well as improve patience and decision-making skills. The easy-to-use and colorful interface makes it enjoyable for children to track their daily tasks.
This app is available for iOS and costs $9.99.
Otsimo is an educational tool designed to help with home schooling children with special needs, including those diagnosed with ASD, ADHD, and Down Syndrome. Its assistive games have been developed according to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy and teach a range of core topics, including the alphabet, words, numbers, colors, and emotions.
The basic version of Otsimo is free, but you’ll need to pay to unlock premium features such as additional games (including new games each month), personalized education, in-depth progress insights, report cards, and cross-platform support. Pricing starts at $9.99 per month and goes up to $299.99 for a lifetime plan.
Looking for help with speech therapy too? Otsimo offers a sister app called Otsimo Speech Therapy.
Both apps are available for iOS only.
8. Flip Writer
Flip Writer is a handy communication app for anyone who is non-verbal or prefers to communicate through text. The premise is simple: as the user types, the text appears inverted at the top of the screen so that it is easily readable by someone standing opposite the user.
Flip Writer is very easy to use and includes a predictive text feature. While the flipped text is the primary focus of the app, it also allows for text-to-speech and integrates with Siri to activate speech recognition.
Flip Writer is available for iOS.
Companion is designed for use by teens and adults with autism. It’s particularly ideal for teens who are looking for more independence but still require assistance with certain tasks. This app uses a human avatar (by the name of Abby) to help the user with questions regarding various challenges and needs throughout the day.
Features include calendar management, task reminders delivered by phone calls, text messages, or phone notifications, and school and work schedules. It can also help with other everyday challenges such as navigation, dealing with money (for example, tipping and splitting bills), and planning for the weather (such as choosing an outfit and accessories).
The app integrates with Wikipedia and wikiHow to help users answer questions about tasks like meal preparation and basic home repairs.
You can download this free app for Android and iOS.
This app is not specifically designed for anyone in particular, but has proven very popular with children (and adults) with ASD. It is essentially an interactive live wallpaper that allows you to play with different visual effects on the screen. Touching the screen brings up a fluid paint effect enabling you to create your own beautiful designs. There are a range of settings options, allowing virtually unlimited design possibilities.
Using Magic Fluids can have a very relaxing effect, so it’s helpful for children on the autism spectrum who have difficulty in finding calm.
The free version of the app is available for iOS (Magic Fluids Lite) and Android (Magic Fluids Free). A full version is available that costs around $3. This gives you access to more settings and presets and enables you to create your own custom presets.
Image credit: “People” by StockSnap licensed under CC BY 2.0.