Apps on portable devices such as the Apple iPad can help non-verbal children to communicate basic needs. Intuitive apps that employ colorful images and sounds can also hold a child's attention long enough to learn and offer effective tools to build vocabulary and reinforce word knowledge.
The following iPad apps are designed to augment self-expression among children with autism spectrum disorders and other cognitive impairments. Becoming more comfortable with language may also encourage more safe social interaction among family members and classmates.
Autism Xpress is a free app that encourages people with autism to recognize and express emotions. The app displays 12 buttons, each a cartoon caricature of a facial expression of how one feels: happy, sad, hungry, etc. Pressing a button creates a full-screen image of that emotion. The app is designed to help teach recognition of emotions and facial expressions-a challenge for most autistic children.
2. Grace App
Grace is a picture exchange system designed to encourage independent social interaction among people with autism. With Grace, users select pictures to form and semantic sentences others can read on the iPad screen. Grace comes with a basic picture vocabulary. Stored images can be added to each category. With practice, users can attempt their own speech and use the pictures as a back up. The Grace App Manual, an introducing to augmentative communication is also available free on the site.Grace App costs $37.99.
iConverse is designed for children with autistic and other communicative disabilities who have not yet mastered basic speech. The app has six communication tiles representing needs such as food, break, bathroom, etc. When touched, the icons give an auditory and visual representation of the specific need or want. Built-in text-to-speech enables parents to customize the app by recording their own voice. iConverse costs $9.99
Living Safely provides self-paced learning on 27 safety skills for individuals with autism and developmental disabilities. Living Safely also uses the AbleLink Instructional Media Standard (AIMS) that provides step-by-step multimodal instruction using visual and auditory media. The cognitively accessible learning sessions include home and personal safety, strangers, and sun and cold-weather safety. Living Safely costs $29.99.
Story Builder enables children to create, record, and share narratives in their own voice. The app includes 50 form-generating story lines and 500 audio clip questions to guide narrative development. Each student gets their own archive page and can share stories via email. Story Builder is designed to help children form paragraphs, integrate ideas, and make higher-lever abstractions from inferences.