Educational Apps for Teaching Children With Autism

Many teachers, counselors, and parents of children with autism spectrum disorder, are using educational apps to help kids organize their days, learn a variety of skills, and improve overall communication. After the success of educational apps like “Make Sentences” and “Just Match” that can run on iPads and tabs, researchers have begun to explore ways for harnessing these common devices to teach adaptive skills to autistic children.

It’s the interactive nature of these apps that have made them hugely popular with the kids. The educational apps help autistic children can take advantage of the strong visual-processing skills. The apps tap their interest and use the same as a teaching mechanism. While the “Make Sentences” and “Just Match” autism education apps have paved the way for scientists to research what more can be taught with them, other companies have begun to harness their utilities.

The capabilities of these new-age digital devices like iPhones, tabs, and smart phones to capture videos and photos, combined with the schedulers, reminders, and calendars, make them useful for teaching adaptive and cognitive skills. They can be used to communicate, and impart social skills and cause-effect relationships. A child can be given a visual schedule to build or follow. Autistic children usually prefer to learn adaptive skills via video presentations that the “Make Sentences” and “Just Match” educational apps facilitates, rather than following the traditional form of instructions from an individual. Besides, recording video on traditional media, is very time-consuming.

This is where iPads and smart phones score over the more conventional forms. Recording and editing videos on CDs and DVDs was a very lengthy process. But iPads and smartphones have eased that.

It has become simplistic with iPads and smart phones. A picture or a video can be taken anywhere. Autistic children tend to lend more attention to videos because they are easily distracted by people in social situations.

Generalization or applying skills to real-life situations, from the video learning modules in autism educational apps, is much more consistent. When kids see the same models repeatedly, it becomes easy for them to imitate. But in the case of a live person, it’s difficult to be consistently repetitive.

Caregivers, counselors, educators, and almost anybody associated with imparting education to children with autism spectrum disorder. Both the “Make Sentences” and “Just Match” are regularly updated with new technologies so that users can access the latest content. The day may not be far when these educational apps will be used in all schools across the US.

Adapting Thanksgiving for Autistic Children

Over the years, the Walker family in Chicago has learnt how to customize the Thanksgiving Day, a ritual which begins quite early in the morning. This is because when Jason Walker is agitated staying in the house when his mother cooks dinner, he and his father Patrick goes to watch the Thanksgiving parade.

Jason has autism spectrum disorder. Though he loves watching the parade, Jason can’t stay there for long. Too much color and noise causes sensory overload. When he has had enough, Jason and his father start walking back home. They walk all through the neighborhood and arrive home a little before dinner is served.

When they were living in Tennessee, Jason’s condition was easy to accommodate because of the open lands. He was able to bolt up from dinner whenever he wanted, go out and take a walk, and come back to finish his dinner.

But in a city like Chicago, where cars speed at breakneck speed, the Walker family can’t allow Jason to go out at his own free will. But Jason knows how to communicate, courtesy the “What’s the Expression” and “All Sorts!” apps that run on his iPad. For several years now, Thanksgiving Day has become much smaller for the Walkers; it’s just Jason, his parents, and younger brother Melvin.

The meal is simple and traditional. A giant turkey with the stuffing Jason likes, pumpkin pies and ice cream. But no guests arrive, and there are no extended toasts. Jason can speak but doesn’t converse. He has to be kept engaged in talking while eating.

The Walkers had to let go all the expectations and pretty pictures that’s usually associated with Thanksgiving. No guests come to their home because with all the commotion around, Jason feels lost.

But the Walkers are not alone. With autism increasing at an alarming rate all across the US, soon there will be more families that will celebrate Thanksgiving like the Walkers. Autism experts have expressed concern about how much autistic kids feel left overwhelmed at these events.

While awareness on autism spectrum disorder has grown over the years, many people are still unaware of how to deal with autistic children. It’s not that they are insensitive. It’s simply that with all the guests arriving, they forget to make special provisions for the autistic child. In the midst of all the arrangements, an exclusive space where the autistic child can be all to himself, is usually missed out.

Teaching Children With Autism

Developing children, typically, tend to naturally desire social interaction with others. They try to strike up a conversation and communicate naturally. But children with autism spectrum disorder are typically withdrawn and can’t participate in a natural conversation. They may display behaviors and face trouble in communicating effectively in a social situation. It’s quite common for a child having autism spectrum disorder to not use any functional speech at all.

But many latest practices and research have revealed that technology-based gadgets are more effective to target the key challenges of children with autism spectrum disorder. These include socialization, motivation, and communication. All these challenges have a direct impact on the way autistic children interact with others, and participate in school, home, and community environments.

There are thousands of mobile technology apps like “What’s the Expression” and “Make Sentences” that offer solutions to enable autistic children with cognitive challenges to open up their communication abilities and reach out. There are many autism learning apps, and “What’s the Expression” and “Make Sentences” are of course two of the most popular.

The special needs education apps like “What’s the Expression” and “Make Sentences” provide unique tools that help autistic children to learn functions more independently and facilitate communication.

Children with autism and other disabilities often use expanding language for improving their communication and increase the language capacity. Innovative autism learning apps like “What’s the Expression” and “Make Sentences” help in strengthening the language capacity via innovative mobile communication devices that include tabs, iPads and smart phones.

These two apps, according to experts, lessen the barrier of functional communication among autistic kids. They also help to reduce language delays and strengthen the vocabulary of the autistic child, using meaningful day-to-day items from their own environment.

Augmentative communication apps can enhance learning of all several key academic skills of autistic kids. The “What’s the Expression” and “Make Sentences” autism learning apps can reinforce the basic language skills via an in-built robust library of life-like graphics. Both these autism apps are interactive and can be fully customized for each child’s needs. Experts say that these two are the best autism learning apps of their kind in the market.

Autism apps have changed the education landscape for special needs children. Many schools have already integrated these devices in their system. But awareness in this regard is still lacking. Developers of the “What’s the Expression” and “Make Sentences” autism learning apps also provide training for using these apps.

Autism and Social Interaction

A characteristic of autism often described is a possible impairment in social interaction. However, parents sometimes get confused about the importance of a child having social interaction with same age peers. As a school psychologist, I have seen many scenarios of how parents interpret social interaction as it relates to autism.

Sibling Interaction

Parents often describe a child as having plenty of interaction with a brother or sister. However, this is limited because the sibling may overcompensate for the child he or she knows so well. The sibling many give the toy or item before the child even has to ask. In other cases, the sibling may give his or her food to a crying child without any type of social communication required. A sibling can also be aggressive taking the child’s toy and running away before the child with possible autism can even respond. A sibling may start talking and answering for the child which does not facilitate the social interaction of the child. If possible, parents should seek to provide a wide range of play experiences that extend beyond sibling play.

Older Children Interaction

Parents sometimes describe that a child only wants to play with older children. The issues arise for children with autism when the older child initiates more of the play experiences and social interaction. The older child may set up the ‘play school’ by organizing the materials, teaching the lesson, handing out the papers and giving social praise. However, the young child may only respond or not respond in the play experiences. The child with autism may not be provided enough play experiences and opportunities to initiate the social interaction.

Adult Interaction

I once heard a parent describe the social interaction for a child with autism and all of the interaction described was with adults. Sure, I have seen this many times with an only child who interacts with mom, dad and a grandparent. However, I have also heard of too much interaction with adult therapists. I heard one parent suggest that she did not want a preschool program for the child because the child would miss out on all of the therapy. A child with autism may be receiving individual therapy with an adult physical therapist, an adult occupational therapist, an adult speech therapist and an adult behavior therapist. The problem with this approach is that the child is only socially interacting and communicating with adults and missing out on the important social skills that can be learned from same age peers.

Ways to Increase Social Interaction with Peers

-Consider recreation center camps and classes that are age based where the child can learn new things and fun learning activities from peers who are close to his or her age.

-Let the child explore interactive lessons that are taught by adults, but where the child has practical experiences with peers. Swimming lessons or dance lessons provide a nice introduction for young children to learn a new skills and observe and interact with peers who are learning the same new skill.

-Club or social group interaction can provide many same age experiences for young children. Children attending various clubs can watch other children showing and demonstrating the use of objects. Other young children may bring an item to a young child with autism and wait for a response. A child may want to point out something in the room for another child to look at or respond to in the play or group area.

-Finally parents should not forget the importance of providing healthy social interaction experiences for young children with autism. Any social interaction opportunity that provides the child with autism time to improve communication with others and interaction in a social environment can be positive and rewarding for the child to learn new social skills.