Apps Help People With Autism and Their Caregivers

You've probably asked about something and gotten the response "There's an app for that." It seems to be true of nearly everything in our daily lives, from finding a great steakhouse nearby to getting turn-by-turn directions to get there to finding the best recipe if you decide that you'd rather just stay at home to eat. That's true of autism, too, where apps do everything from helping family members and caregivers communicate with kids and adults on the autistic spectrum to teaching various skills to help an autistic person increase his or her social skills. Here's an example:

ACC Autism Talk Now

Kids with autism often struggle with communication. Some can express themselves verbally, but others need alternate means of expressing their thoughts and feelings. The ACC Autism Talk Now app, available through the group Autism Speaks, lets children explore pictures and teaches them to use symbols, pictures and sentences to communicate their needs. It has a special focus on basic day-to-day desires like "I want to eat" or "I want to play," which seem simple, but often pose a challenge to those on the autistic spectrum.

The app is easy to download and install on your Android phone. It comes with a large library of pictures that speak when they're tapped, so users can easy select one and use it as a communication medium. Children can even use its text-to-speech capability if they're more comfortable typing than speaking. The app is very affordable at $2.34, making it an essential addition to your phone if you have an autistic youngster in your household. It's even handy for autistic adults who struggle verbally.

Autism Apps

Autism Apps is a search on the Autism Speaks website that lets you find relevant apps by topic, age group, or device. You can choose from categories: Educational, language, social skills, functional skills, math skills, communication or recreation.

Once you pull down a list of apps in the category in which you have interest, you can sort them by their ratings and read reviews from other users. Some are free, and others involve a fee that's typically only a few dollars. The reviews help you decide whether any particular app is worth the investment. If you know of an autism-related app that's not on the list, you also have the ability to add it to benefit future searchers.

One particularly helpful feature is a research rating for each of the apps. They let you know if the app's supposed results are based on sound scientific research, which earns a rating of "evidence," or if there are some scientific studies that show it might be helpful, but nothing directly related, which earns "research." If the benefits only come from word of mouth testimonials, then the rating is "anecdotal."

If you love someone with autism, log on to Autism Speaks next time you're thinking about download a new app. You might just fund something that can make a world of difference.