Navigating Autism and the iPad

When I first got my iPad I had to learn how to navigate its basic functions. Once that was out of the way it was time to download some apps. But where to begin and how would I effectively use them in therapy? I took to the app store and just started searching, categories, featured apps, top charts, and most importantly “free” apps. I quickly learned how easy it was to spend hours searching for apps that would be effective in therapy and yet still come up empty handed. It’s not like the app store has an “autism” category or a “speech therapy” section. That would just be too easy.

On my third night of perusing the app store and having only downloaded Talking Tomcat and Angry Birds, I took to google. Not that Talking Tomcat wasn’t a hit with my kids. I saw them share positive emotion with me as they would make ‘Tom’ do something silly and then look at me while they laughed and changed their gaze between me and the iPad. I also saw them engage in conversation with ‘Tom’ as he would imitate everything they said, while it may not have always been intelligible, the communicative intent was there.

I typed in “Autism” and “apps” into the search box. While the results were by no means definitive, nevertheless they aided in guiding my search for apps. It all depends what you intend to use your apps for. If you are looking to use your iPad as an AAC device, then there are apps such as Proloquo2Go and Tap2Talk. If you are looking for visual schedules there is the popular iPrompt. However, it’s important to remember, the same way you might get creative with any other materials or approach you might use, it’s just as important to be creative with your apps as well!


A few examples of how I have used some of my apps.

Peekaboo HD: You touch the screen to reveal a farm animal hiding behind bales of hay. After the animal makes its appropriate animal noise I have the kids guess which animal it is.

Angry Birds: I sometimes use Angry Birds as a reward. I also use it as a language task, asking the child to describe step-by-step what I need to do (I of course do as they instruct) to see if we can pass a level by following their instructions. Emotions: flashcards that display picture of an emotion while a voice verbally labels the emotion. I will use this to play charades with the children, asking them to demonstrate/imitate the emotion they see on the screen. Actions: flashcards that display pictures of actions while a voice verbally labels the action. I also use this app to play charades with the children, asking them to demonstrate/imitate the action they see on the screen.


As daunting as a task as it may seem, it is crucial to be patient and be creative! There are so many apps out there that have the potential to reach our kids in so many different ways, it is just a matter of tracking down what works for you. Here are a few links to help in your search. Happy Hunting! (click on the spreadsheet)


Alana Garcia-Chavez, MS, CCC-SLP


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