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This is day 29 of 31 Days of Supporting the Special Needs Family. To view the story behind this series and the series contents, please visit the landing page. Today, Katie Emanuel is back, guest posting about her favorite autism-friendly apps for her son.
# 1 Choiceworks – A picture-based learning tool that helps children complete daily routines, understand and control feelings, improve their waiting skills and make choices.
This app is excellent! Understanding emotions, concepts or ideas, and the order in which to carry out tasks, such as getting dressed or a morning routine can be challenging for children on the spectrum; but Choiceworks utilizes interactive visual schedules to guide children through tasks and ideas, which is #ausome!
Why we love it:
It is user-friendly for both parent and child. Time is very limited for special needs parents, so we need to use it wisely. This app is both easy to navigate and familiarize with in a short period of time. I began creating schedules, storyboards, etc. for my son within 30 minutes of downloading it!
It is interactive. Jack is able to pull up his morning schedule and, as shown below, tap and drag each task over to the “All done” column once the task is completed. This helps him take ownership of his routines while also guiding him through each task. Also, if your child wants to hear each task read aloud, he can! There is a standard voice that comes with the program (which Jack likes); however, there also is the option to record your own voice if your child would prefer it.
It is affordable. I have wanted to get an app like this for my son for a while, but did not want to invest upwards of $45 for an app that may or may not work for him. This one was only $6.99 and has been such a great fit for him and our family!
It is easily editable. Storyboards can be edited easily at any time. Life is not stagnant. New needs, routines, schedules, and activities pop up, and this app makes it easy to adjust to that! With that said, there is an editing lock which is easily accessible in the settings menu to make it such that only you can edit the storyboards, not your child. Again, #ausome!
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#2 Time Timer – A visual timer app with a red (or color of your choosing) disk that quietly gets smaller as time elapses
We love this app! Time is a difficult concept for children to understand, but this app makes it easier by allowing little ones the opportunity to watch time elapse, rather than expecting them to understand confusing figures of speech. This app takes the ambiguity, and therefore the confusion, out of the passing of time.
Why we love it:
It is visual. Time is conceptual and visual aids take the ambiguity of language, such as “we’ll leave in a minute,” or “you need to do this task soon,” out of the equation. The app conveys the passage of time clearly, which is great!
It is a great tool to help children through an activity or to shift from one activity to the next. For example, we use the timer when our son has quiet time – a designated period of time during which he plays quietly (usually 15 minutes). Rather than saying, “go play quietly for a while,” this provides Jack with a clear idea of just how long he is expected to play quietly. This is also helpful in helping children shift from an activity they enjoy to another activity they may not be quite as fond of. For example, our son needs to rock in order to re-center, which we encourage; however, we also want to teach him to focus his time for sensory input so he can then move on to the next task or activity feeling re-centered and calm.
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#3 Toca Boca Games – Interactive games that hone problem solving skills, while also being super fun!
We try to limit screen time, but also recognize that it can be very beneficial for our son so we try to use it effectively and efficiently each day. But it can be so difficult to know which games to choose! We have found Toca Boca games to provide our son with opportunities to learn problem solving skills in a fun and creative way, and at an affordable price.
Why we love it:
Each game comes with “For Parents” instructions. I find instructions super helpful when introducing something new to our son. If I understand the way the game works, I can help him understand it, too, and quickly troubleshoot if need be, which helps avoid meltdowns. With that said, both of our children have figured out how to use each game on their own and probably know how to play them better than mommy at this point!
Affordable. Most games are $2.99 or less, and many of them are free! I don’t know about you, but our budget is very tight so we try to keep a cap on app spending.
Applies problem solving skills in a fun way! These games are fun, while also teaching problem solving skills. Problem solving is a very complex concept and these games teach these skills in fun, achievable, and rewarding ways.
Symbols based. Communication throughout the game is based on visuals; therefore, children at all levels of literacy and language can play and enjoy!
Our favorites are:
Robot Lab – Each robot is comprised of different parts that are different shapes, sizes, and colors. This teaches two valuable things. First, everyone is different, uniquely and wonderfully made. Second, for children who often have perfectionist or OCD tendencies, as many children on the spectrum do, this teaches that while things might not look perfectly symmetrical or matching, they can still be fun!
Toca Kitchen Monsters – Some messy monsters are hungry and need to be fed! I love this game because it, again, addresses perfectionistic/OCD tendencies in a fun way. It also shows that different people have different preferences. The monster will eat each food, but sometimes likes it to be prepared in different ways – cooked in a pot on the stove, heated up in the microwave, or made into a smoothie. It also shows children all different kinds of foods – everything from fruits and vegetables to mushrooms and steak, which can be helpful for picky eaters.
Toca Train – This is a great app for train lovers! Jack absolutely loves trains and thinks this game is so much fun. At each stop, the train picks up passengers and cargo. Jack loves loading up the train at each station and driving it around the track!
There are 3 #ausome apps our family loves, and we hope you will too!
What are some of your favorite apps?
Katie is the blessed wife of an Air Force veteran and mother of two (soon to be three!) precious children. Her oldest child, Jack, age 5, was diagnosed with autism in January 2013. Later that year, Katie felt the Lord calling her to share her family’s journey and she launched Wonderfully Made, a blog dedicated to encouraging women along their journeys of faith, motherhood, marriage, and special needs. It is her deepest hope and prayer that what she shares at Wonderfully Made will encourage you to laugh, cry, learn, accept, and rejoice in what makes our children and each of us who we are—perfectly and wonderfully made by God.
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