Awesome Apps for Kids with Special Needs

iPad and iPhone Apps for Children with Autism and other Communication Disabilities

Apps—is there a parent left who doesn't love 'em? Regardless of what your kid's into, there's probably an app or two or 100 out there for them, and chances are it's inexpensive or even free.

Of course for kids with special needs, apps are more than just a fun pastime. Apps can be a lifeline that helps them connect to the outside world and allows them to pursue interests they didn't even know they had. So for the April edition of my monthly special needs posts, I decided to share some apps that have really engaged my son Jake, who has autism, and other children with special needs.

Apps let kids with special needs enjoy everything their mainstream counterparts love—just a teensy bit differently. For children with mild disabilities, apps allow them to hone their educational and social skills while having fun. Jake has his favorites, but to serve other families I've researched apps that can engage children with more severe needs.

Pictello – This app has given nonverbal children a voice, as this moving video shows. The full version allows users to create photo albums, talking books and even offers free photo sharing. The app can by customized for each child. For example, when referencing "Home" in the talking book, a picture of the child's residence can be uploaded, which helps bolster understanding and language. $18.99

The Social Express – While a free trial of this awesome interactive social app is available, it's worth purchasing the full version. Animated characters help school-age kids decode social cues, and the slow pace allows users to pick up on nuances. The narration can be turned off or on to sync with your child's social decoding ability. $44.95

Dragon Dictation – As you speak into an iPhone or iPad, your words appear onscreen. Your voice must remain even and you need to articulate punctuation (comma, etc), but you get into the groove quickly. I find this tool is useful for children working on written book reports, science projects, any situation in which they might freeze up or have difficulty processing. FREE

iWriteWords – Kids can practice their letter writing with the help of engaging graphics. Perfect for preschoolers. You can test out a free version or buy the full one for $2.99.

iReward – This app helps you give your kids positive reinforcement via virtual star charts or token boards in order to encourage good behavior. $4.99

Sentence Builder – By using a slot machine design, kids can "spin in" words and phrases in order to compose sentences. This app does double duty for speech and reading support. $5.99

Phone for Kids – A collection of fun educational games that are best for high-functioning young children. There's everything here, words games, music games and more. The free version comes with six games, but the full version has more options. $1.99

A quick note about the age appropriateness of the apps: You know your child best so go with your gut. Our suggestions are based on personal experience and research but every child is different. All of the above apps can be found on iTunes.

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