There are so many autism related apps out there, all ranging vastly in price, it is no wonder parents and teachers are getting confused which to choose!
We have tried and tested these apps with real children in real situations. We thought you would like to know what we thought.
May we first remind you that these are all our own heartfelt and honest opinions. We are not being sponsored by any mentioned company.
Firstly you do not need to spend a fortune to encourage your sensory kiddos to communicate using the iPad.
1. Choiceboard Creator lite (free)
Often children with additional learning needs struggle with choice. They may not show a preference or may not be able to let you know.
This app is designed so adults can easily create a grid of pictures on the iPad for the children to choose from. We often used apps like this at snack time or when choosing friends or toys to play with.
This app is definitely one of the better ones. You can have 1-9 pictures in your grid. It allows you to very easily upload or take photos so the images can be personal to the situation. You can also upload music, spoken word, video and text to enable your child to be motivated to choose.
The main idea behind the app is for it to be a personalised question and answer game. The app wants there to be a 'correct answer' but saying that does allow you to mark every choice as correct.
For a free app we think this is fabulous and definitely recommend downloading and having a go.
2. MyChoiceMaker (free)
This is another free choice app. This time there are grid from 2-6 pictures. Again you can take your own photos, you can type and record spoken word.
The app is more temperamental and slower to use, though if working is more simple. When a child is choosing it isn't obvious it has worked, so often our children tended to keep tapping, or choosing another symbol which kind of misses the point. However, options for our children are clear and you get an idea on their preference.
3. Choice Boards (free)
This is our last free choice app. It works in a similar way to the others. You are giving a choice grid of 6 pictures with no option to add or takeaway squares from the grid. You do not have to use them all though, so it doesn't make too much difference. You can upload your own photos and can add text but there is no record function, which is a shame.
The app is reliable and works fast. When a child is selecting the choice made is obvious, filling the screen with the chosen photo. It is very easy to navigate and set up also. Although there is no record function this is the choice app that we gravitated towards most.
4. Talking Tom (free)
There are loads of talking animal apps at the App Store, they are all great and loved amongst our children.
the animals mimic any sound in the room which can be very funny!
the animals also perform different actions when you touch parts of the screen. Some of these actions can be violent (this function can be switched off in settings).
Although these apps definitely enable our kiddos to produce sound, which is great, I also found that our ASD kids got preoccupied with the action functions and kept repeating these over and over obsessively, distracting them from communication.
I used to use this app as a reward after a good communication ipad session so the child could have free play, otherwise I found it only caused a battle!
5. Bla Bla Bla (free)
This app is beautiful and simple and wonderful for early sound producers. You speak aloud and as you do the different faces change as if they are talking too. The louder the sound the bigger the face becomes.
We had huge success with mute children in the past. They really got lost in the fun of speaking aloud.
it also encourages our pre-speakers to produce a range of sounds.
We recommend you download this free app and just see how you get on with it.
6. Splingo £2.99
This app is less about communication and more about understanding. It is an assessment tool set up like a fun game for kids. As the child plays the game, it assesses their understanding of key words and language, allowing you to see the data once complete.
A great function of this app is that you can close, save and go back to the assessment at any time.
We found for most accurate results the child should be in a distract free environment with large headphones on.
The app seems accurate and gives a great insight into the understanding of our children. We will use this data to inform our next steps.
This is great for educators for those children that are difficult to assess through observation.
7. Asd Tools £3.99
This is our favourite and most used app of them all. It has four separate functions. It has a now and then board, a timer, a reward system and a visual timetable.
All are bright and easy to navigate. The timers are clear and you can edit the amount of time left. The visuals are editable to any photo you have taken on your iPad already or you can use a camera function. The app also has build in symbols that are quick and easy to drop in as you need them.
It is fantastic to ease anxiety when out, it adds structure to your day. It is wonderful for those "uh oh" moments in the middle of town!!
suitable for parents and educators alike. Highly recommended and well worth the money.
8. Choiceworks £6.99
This is an app set up to create schedules and social stories. It has many symbols to choose from or you can add your own photos.
the schedules are as simple or complex as you need them to be. It takes a while to set up, so they will have to be set up in your own time ready for when you need them. It is very clear for children to understand and adds much needed structure to your day.
It also includes a 'waiting' option with a timer and reward visually shown. This is great and we used this function lots in my sensory classroom.
It is also set up to support our young people to manage their feelings. It offers options and a reward at the end.
We think this is a good app for parents to help them support their child's behaviour, anxiety and understanding. You just need to be prepared and have it ready for when you need.
It is not an app I often reached for in class, but maybe only because I never initially set it up so it was ready to go.
9. AVAZ £200 (one week free trial)
This is a much more complex and high end AAC communication system. It turns your iPad into a PECS book, allows our non-verbal children to have a voice and to request and start to build sentences.
It is good that it offers a week's trial before buying as it is important to know if your child responds well to this type of app before paying such a huge sum.
You can add symbols or simplify the app to your child's needs. The only down side to this app, apart from the huge cost is that children were often found closing the. App to play a game on the iPad. This was quickly fixed by locking the app in settings.
Another down side if some of our children did not have the fine motor skills to select the symbols accurately and got frustrated.
I used apps like this one with many different children. Some it showed a real break through and others were not interested. It is down to your child. Worth the free trial for sure!
10. Proloquo2go £250
This app works exactly the same as the one above. We do prefer it, however. We like that the voice is editable to the gender and age of the young person using the app. It truely gives them a voice of their own.
I also prefer the symbol drawings and the way you can change the size of the symbols for easy selection.
the app really feels like a PECS book and would make an easy transition from one to another.
I highly recommend this app, however would recommend downloading the free week's trial of the one above first, just to check it will support your child in the way you want it to.
We hope this clears up a few of the communication app confusion and that you find an app that will support your child communicate with you.
Watching your child find their voice is the best thing is the world.
These are some of our other communication apps that we have. Feel free to ask us about any of them by contacting us through our social media or by commenting below.