Research has shown that children with autism have varying degrees of social impairment, meaning they can face challenges interpreting emotions, understanding facial expressions and body language, and interacting with peers. The apps in this category were created to help teach and reinforce many of the social skills that can be difficult for kids on the spectrum to learn and initiate.
The Social Express: App teaches users how to manage social situations and build social skills, $89.99, by The Language Express, Inc.
Created by a speech language pathologist, this educational app features 16 animated, interactive lessons and 30 scenes divided into two skill levels that aim to teach children with ASD how to better understand social situations and to use this knowledge in real-world settings. While watching the app’s characters – a group of friends – interacting with each other, users get to choose what they will do or say next, and then see the consequences of the choices. Via video modeling, users can learn to identify feelings in others and work on eye contact, proximity and body language, conversational skills and coping strategies. Each level has an interactive review of the social skills that have been learned during the lessons.
AutismXpress: App encourages recognition and expression of emotions, free, by StudioEmotion Pty Ltd
This app uses brightly colored cartoon characters and sound effects to help people with autism interpret emotions and learn about facial expressions. Its interface allows users to touch icons on the screen to watch a clip with the emotion and hear the corresponding sound effect. Many of the traditional emotions are covered – happy, sad, surprised and nervous – while others represent bodily functions, such as gassy, burpy, sneezy and even “hicupy”. A paid version of the app (AutismXpress Pro, $1.99) offers games, including a memory game to reveal and match identical pairs of emoticons and another to help kids associate the emoticons to emotive words.
Look in My Eyes 1 Restaurant: App rewards users for focusing on a person’s eyes, $2.99, by Fizzbrain
This app, designed for children on the spectrum, teaches eye-contact skills through a game in which players look at a series of faces and have to focus on a number displayed in the eyes. When the player chooses the right number, they are rewarded by earning dollars that can be used to “buy” items in a virtual restaurant. Users can buy more than 40 items of furniture, food and utensils that can be rotated, resized and positioned in five different rooms – which also can help to show the proper placement of items in a room. The other apps in the series function in much the same way, but with different settings and items. *Also: Look in My Eyes: Steam Train, $2.99 and Look in My Eyes 2 Car Mechanic, $2.99
Stories2Learn: App creates social stories to promote social skills and literacy, $13.99, by MDR
This app can help parents and teachers create personalized social stories with their own photos, text and recorded audio. The stories can be used to help individuals with autism learn new concepts such as taking turns, making eye contact, sharing and playground and school rules. Basically, this app gives users a situation and then shows the correct response. It also comes preloaded with 12 narratives to teach skills. Stories can be stored for reference before or during the corresponding social situations.
Model Me Going Places: App models social skills in various settings, free, by Model Me Kids, LLC
This app is a visual teaching tool to help children learn to navigate locations in the community. Each location – such as a hairdresser, mall, doctor’s office, playground, grocery store and restaurant – contains a slideshow of children modeling appropriate behaviors, along with corresponding descriptions of behavior. (The six locations are also featured in the separate Model Me Going Places DVD.) Parents tout the app’s easy-to-understand images and its simple navigation. Users can manually work through the pictures or have them advance automatically. The app also features audio narration.
Life Skills Winner: App teaches life and social skills in an interactive way, $1.99, by WiseMind Studios LLC
This interactive app utilizes a personalized reward system to help children on the spectrum learn the steps to complete various life and social skills, including brushing teeth, washing hands, laundry sorting, making a sandwich and determining the distance to stand when speaking with someone. Whenever users complete a step in the task, such as cleaning a tooth in brushing teeth, they earn a point that can be used to redeem a prize. The app allows parents and teachers to import specific prizes, and set how many points they are worth, to reward each child individually.
Off We Go – Going to the Dentist: App prepares for everyday experiences to improve language and social skills, $3.99, by Kiwa Media
This app aims to help children become comfortable with going to visit the dentist, using sequences of pictures and everyday language to explain the events that are likely to occur. The app presents slides describing the situation with text and colorful graphics, and each screen has buttons that activate animation and play sounds in the slide. Users can run their fingers over the text to hear it read by a narrator and have the option of recording their own audio clips for the slides. A drawing tool and color palette also allows users to paint the scene. All apps in the series are designed to help children with autism prepare for potentially challenging experiences. *Also: Off We Go – Going on a Plane, $3.99
Everyday Social Skills HD: App teaches basic, daily activities, $1.99, by The Conover Company
This app is designed to teach basic social skills and allow users to become more capable of functioning independently. A narrator leads users through videos of six different scenarios of common daily activities, such as walking on the street, using a restroom, waiting in line, asking for directions or information, and joining a group. Each activity presents all of the steps to follow, and each step can be viewed separately to reinforce the skill to be learned. The categories contain more than 75 videos of skills, which can be assigned to different users in a “video playlist” for individual learning.