In recent years, iPhones and iPads have revolutionized the way we think about teaching skills. Apps developed for iPhones and iPads have also become a wonderful teaching tool for individuals with autism from teaching basic skills to providing many with the means to communicate. Currently, there are over 1 million different apps to choose from which makes it difficult for parents to determine which would be most beneficial for their child. In addition, apps can be expensive and are often not designed to work well for individuals with autism. Therefore, ACES will be reviewing apps and updating this page frequently with new apps we feel may be appropriate for your child.

All apps listed on this page will be “free” or “lite versions” at their time of review. “Lite versions” refers to trial versions that you can try with your child and then purchase the full version if you find them beneficial. We are not reviewing “paid apps” for this page, not because they aren’t beneficial, but because we know the high costs of raising a child with autism and feel that parents can acquire amazing apps to help their child free of charge.

ACES does not endorse, recommend, or encourage the purchase of any additional content for the apps below.

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Behavior Behavior BreakthroughsiTunes Download

Depicts a child engaging in various maladaptive behaviors with a list of possible choices for changing the child’s behavior. A fun training tool for parents/educators learning the ABC's and basic behavior change strategies.

Identifying Items/People
See, Touch, and SayiTunes Download

Take pictures of items/people, type in the name, record the name and create individual flash cards or sets of flash cards to teach identification.

Communication ChoiceBoard CreatoriTunes Download

Choose an activity and take pictures of the different choices available to create a choice board to use during the activity.

Communication Literacy Skills SampleriTunes Download

Depicts videos identifying and describing 80 different functional items.

Token System
iEarnedThatiTunes Download

Allows you to take a picture of any item you want to use as a reinforcer and creates a puzzle of the reinforcer based on how many pieces you select. Child then earns puzzle pieces (tokens) for any goals you choose until the puzzle is complete and the reinforcer is earned.

Life Skills SampleriTunes Download

Depicts videos identifying and describing 80 different items, safety signs, and community helpers.

CanPlaniTunes Download

Allows you to create a visual schedule each day along with the visual and auditory steps required for each activity and reminders set to make sure each activity is completed at the correct time of the day.

Telephone Skills
DialSafe ProiTunes Download

Provides lessons on using a phone, dialing 911, and speaking to strangers in addition to teaching your child their home phone number and the phone numbers of others using memory games, practices, challenges, and a simulator.

Social Skills Social Skills SampleriTunes Download

Videos depicting various social situations including meeting/greeting people, taking responsibility, being polite and courteous, joining others in groups, apologizing/excusing self, following directions, and handling criticism. Each skill is then broken down into small steps in order for you to review each separately after watching the video.

Social Skills Stories About MeiTunes Download

Allows you to create your own social stories with pictures, words, and recordings.

Here are a few tips for determining which apps might be best for your child and how to make the app experience more pleasant.

  1. Age Ranges – Age ranges listed on apps are not a valid way to determine if the app would be appropriate for your child. Individuals with autism often have splintered skills meaning that they may be functioning above their developmental age in some areas and below their developmental age in others. Therefore, age ranges are not a good way to determine if an app will be beneficial because some Kindergarten apps may be great for a 10 year old while that same 10 year old could also benefit from apps listed in the teen range.
  2. Preferences – Choose apps based on your child’s preferences. No matter what your child’s interests, there is more than likely some type of app that will fit. If you choose an app based on your child’s preferences, your child will be more likely to engage with the app for longer periods of time in order to reap greater benefits. If you are not quite sure what interests your child, you can start with apps that will allow you to take pictures of your child or their favorite items around the house to integrate into the app.
  3. Skill Level – Consider your child’s skill level when choosing an app. If the app requires your child to point his/her finger to move through screens, but your child’s fine motor skills are not refined yet, look for apps that allow your child to simply touch or swipe to manipulate items on the screen. If your child has difficulty with auditory directions, look for apps that provide directions visually via pictures and/or words.
  4. Goals – Determine your goals before choosing an app. If your goal is to teach your child to read, have that goal in mind when looking for apps. Remember that many of your goals may need to be broken down into small steps. For example, if you want to teach your child to read, a reading app may not be the first step if your child does not yet know his/her letters or letter sounds. Instead, look for apps that start with the basic, first steps, and work up from there.
  5. Explore – Make sure to always fully explore an app first before allowing your child to explore. Many apps have “in app purchase” buttons that are easy for children to mistakenly push and order additional content. In addition, some apps have inappropriate content and might teach your child inappropriate behaviors in an attempt to be funny or to draw in others with humor.
  6. Experiment – After you have reviewed the app(s), experiment with different apps with your child. An app that works great with one child, may not work for another. It is difficult for anyone to determine what the best apps are for individuals with autism due to all the individual differences and preferences that may make one app better than another.
  7. Set Limits – Set limits from the very beginning. Using an iPhone or iPad can be a highly reinforcing activity for individuals with autism. Behavior problems can stem from allowing and limiting access to these devices including tantrums or whining when asked to stop or obsessive thoughts about playing throughout the day. Frustration can also be an issue if the game does not perform the way the individual wants or if he/she loses a game or chooses the wrong answer. In addition, children with autism sometimes echo what they hear and can get stuck on repeating a sound, word, or phrase which may increase when using apps. If this becomes an issue, you may need to limit or eliminate an app from your iPad to reduce the behavior. From the very beginning, determine when your child will be allowed access to the device, for how long, and under what circumstances. For example, perhaps your child will be allowed to use apps for only 1 hour after his/her homework is done each night and if his/her behavior has been appropriate throughout the day. Token systems used to earn time using apps are also a great way to set limits and parameters.