Apps That Can Benefit Your Autistic Child At School

For children with autism, conveying thoughts and feelings to others can be a daily struggle. In turn, comprehending the emotions of others can be very challenging and this can be particularly frustrating to overcome in a school environment.

Fortunately, technology has begun to lend a helping hand in recent years in the form of mobile apps which aim to develop child communication skills through visual stimuli and word games. Armed with the following apps, your child will be able to communicate with confidence in the classroom and with their fellow peers. Below lists some of the best apps that can enable children across the autism spectrum to perform effectively at school.

Emotion flash card apps

Many children with autism can have a hard time reading emotion in the faces of others and may also find it difficult to express their own feelings. If this is the case with your child, an app that displays emotion flash cards can be hugely beneficial to them in the classroom.

These apps will typically feature a picture of a person with a title next to the picture that matches the emotion. Being able to use lifelike photos to explain or recognise a mood will be much clearer to your child than simply being told the words 'angry' or 'sad'—helping them to read the facial expressions of their peers and provide them with the assurance to explain their needs and emotions to others when they need to.

Alphabet and reading apps

A recent study into childhood autism revealed that despite a lapse in comprehension skills, letters and words are easily recognised by autistic children. Apps that deal with the alphabet and language, therefore, can play to your child's strengths and help them fare better when it comes to using these skills in class.

For toddlers and small children, there are apps that teach the alphabet by encouraging kids to sound out letters as they appear on the screen, kind of like an interactive form of alphabet flash cards. Once children can master sounds and letters, learn to read apps can introduce them to simple sentence stories. Apps such as 'Starfall Learn to Read', for example, use lively songs and sound out words phonetically throughout a story to help kids recognise various sounds. Aside from helping to develop your child's language and vocabulary skills, these kind of apps are also a great tool for positive reinforcement.

Storybook apps

Storybook apps like 'Pictello' let your child create a visual schedule of what they get up to and allows them to share it with others in the form of a slideshow. For example, if your child went fishing at the weekend, they could tell this story with photos and a voice recording to explain what they did in each picture. These apps are great for developing literacy skills as the photo captions highlight each word to support their reading.

In enabling your child to communicate their activities and experiences with others, these visual storytelling apps can provide a huge boost to their social skills. Encouraging your child to create these mini storybooks about a fun weekend or a family trip will increase their desire to communicate with their classmates and help them develop their social circle.

Speech-enabling apps

These are very fun and interactive apps that encourage your child to speak by responding to an animated character and repeating words or phrases back into their phone. A popular app of this kind is the 'Talking Tom' app which features an animated cat that mimics any word or sound that it hears. If your child speaks or even just blows raspberries into the phone, the cat will imitate it, and this feedback can encourage your child to keep a dialogue going in a fun and lively way.

For children with nonverbal autism for whom speech is rare or even non-existent, speech-enabling apps such as these can be beneficial alongside speech therapy to help them practice vocalising small words and sounds. Watching as an animated character moves their mouth and tongue to form different sounds may help to encourage similar behaviour in your child overtime. Be sure to speak with your child's teacher about speech-enabling apps and the importance of regular use in the classroom.

Hopefully, the above apps can benefit your child's performance and confidence at school. While apps such as these aim to develop communication skills in children with autism, it's important to remember that autism affects every child differently. If you have questions or concerns about your own child's performance at school, be sure to consult your local medical centre and indeed your child's teacher. Together, they may be able to discuss which learning methods and measures are best for your child.