Easy apps for Autism

R. is actually bored with both of these apps, but she used them quite a bit for the first couple of weeks with the ipad.  I think they helped her learn how different apps work and the fact that they are simple to do made her feel confident enough to stick with it.










Monte Lingual 1 to 10 Lite

This review is for the Lite/free version.  There is an advertisement bar at the bottom of the screen during play.  It does not seem to get in the way.

When the app loads it says tap screen to begin.  This means R. can easily launch the program herself.  There are no ads on the opening page.

The description of the app says that they are using the  Montessori bead stair concept.  There are ten red circles on the left hand side.  Each circle is moved individually to the bar across the top of the screen.   The app is somewhat forgiving, and will pull the circle into the correct spot when you are close. You can also bounce the circles off the opposite side and they will bounce into the correct spot.  The circle makes a popping sound when you remove a circle, and a slight swishing sound if you fling it.  It makes a clicking sound when the circle is put into place.  The red circle turns a different color once it is in place and is labeled with the next number and the program says each number out loud.   Once all ten spots are filled a button pops up offering play again.  It is a bit tricky, but you can select more than one circle and count by twos or whatever.  R. is not interested in that yet.

I think learning how to move the circles helped teach R. how to manipulate the ipad.  There are really no wrong answers or moves, so it provides errorless learning.  The music turned her off initially, but once I learned how to turn it off (press the i in the upper left hand corner) she was interested in the numbers  and was able to do it herself after a while.  You can also turn off the sound effects each circle makes, and the speaking of the numbers.













ABC Alphabet by Little Sorter

This is a free app.  There are no ads.   On the first page there is a button in the lower right corner that says play.   R. tired of this app before she learned how to use the button.

Grasshopper Apps, who wrote the app, says that you can learn with sight, sound and touch. A letter is spoken for each colored letter when moved, and it can only be placed in the correct spot.   When attempting to place the letter in the wrong spot the letter bounces back and a bouncing sound is heard.  The number of letters that appear each time vary, and can be customized in the settings.   You can select a minimum and a maximum number of letters to appear from one up to six.

The authors must know all about children with autism, because there are many ways to customize this app.  There is a settings button on the front page.  You can record your own voice and customize all the game sounds -including turning them off.   There are separate settings for the intro music (we turned it off) and success sounds.

R. took to this app immediately, it was one of the first ones she could really do independently.   Sometimes she would just play with the letters to hear the sounds.  She figured out that if you try to move more than one at a time it makes strange echo-ish letter sounds.

A Behavior plan for the ipad

R. is still requesting the ipad, by saying ipad when it is out of sight.  This skill seems to be generalizing, because she is starting to tell me what she wants for other things when she grabs my hand, as opposed to waiting to say it until she leads me to it.

We’re running into some behavior issues regarding the ipad.  I know we need to be consistent so we don’t create a monster.

Issue 1:   She wants all ipad all the time

She is getting kind of obsessed with it, she demands it as soon as she gets up and throughout the day.  I know that she gets this way, fixated on something new and then the novelty wears off.  So I am humoring her a bit, and letting her use it a bit more than I would like.

Set limits for use – times of day and length of use session
I don’t want to go so far as to set a schedule, but I think having specific times of day that we use the ipad, will help with setting limits.   I also make sure she doesn’t spend hours at a time using it.

Give warning with a specific cue for end of ipad time. Offer transitioning help – music on ipad, new activity.
I’ve been giving her warnings, telling her when whatever she is doing is finished we are all done with ipad.   She usually protests, so I will turn on Pandora and tell her only music on the ipad, and I’ll put it out of reach.  It really is best if I have another activity planned and ready, even just coloring or going out.

Be consistent and firm and acknowledge but do not react to her emotional outbursts.
When I’ve decided it is a “no ipad time” I have to make sure not to give in to her pleading. She has never verbally begged like this before, and it is so hard to say no.   She will cry sometimes and get very angry.   At first I was not sure how to react, and she totally picks up on this.  She’ll scream louder once she senses my indecision.  If I am firm and consistent, she gets over it a lot quicker.

Issue 2:   She wants to pick her own apps and they are usually a video or an app she gets stimmy with.

She is not allowed total control of the ipad.  She should say all done when finished with an activity.
We have to totally take charge of the ipad the majority of the time.  We select which apps she plays with, and insist she do at least a part of the activity.   She’ll press the button to exit the app, I’ll stop her until she completes the activity, and then I’ll get her to say All done before going on to something else.

Use preferred activities as a reward.  Tell her first this and then that.
It is usually obvious what she would like to select, so I’ll tell her first do a puzzle and then you can play with the fish pond.   When she spends a long time doing “educational apps”, I’ll let her play around and do what ever she wants for a little while, even it seems stimmy.

Don’t treat the ipad like a drilling machine.  Explore all the different possibilities.
I do try to find things to do that match her mood.  After a day at school and then therapy, she doesn’t always want to write letters in iwrite or anything like that.  But I can usually find something that requires some engagement and interaction on her part, even looking at her photo album, and having me name her classmates and other people in the pics.

Allow her some free time.
We let her do what she likes with the ipad for a little while before dinner.

Issue 3: She wants to use my finger instead of her own to operate the ipad. She has a short attention span at times.

I think these two issues are related, because the more successful she is with an activity, the longer she wants to do it.

Use the easiest apps.
Some apps require less precision than others.  The puzzle pieces go into place if you are in the general vicinity, even iwrite is somewhat forgiving about the lines.   We need to use the easiest apps when prompting her to use her own finger.

Start by letting her use the method she is comfortable with and then physically prompt her to use her own finger.
It seems to go easiest if I allow her to use my finger a couple of times and then say R. do and I’ll physically take her finger and make her do it.   Sometimes she argues and wrestles her hand away, but if I’m insistent she will comply.  I usually have to hold her finger a couple of times, and then I can back off to just putting my hand on her arm.  With some apps she’ll usually go on for a while on her own, but with others she’ll do it on her own for a few times and then I have to go back to letting her use my finger and start over again.  When she can do an activity all on her own she gets so excited and pleased with herself, and she wants to continue doing it.

Have her ask for use of someone’s finger.
I’m going to prompt her to say help, each time she wants to use my finger.  I hope that will eventually help her realize that use of someone else’s finger is not automatic.

What do four year olds watch?

R. has been exclusively interested in Sesame Street for so long, I kind of gave up on offering alternatives.  But lately she really gets tired of watching the same ones.  I get them from the library and Netflix, and copy the ones she likes on to the AppleTV.   She’s kind of bored of Elmo’s World, she doesn’t like the DVDs that are just a collection of Elmo’s World.   I’m starting to run out of new options for her to watch.

Now that we have the ipad and can stream Netflix, I’ve been offering some other choices.   Sometimes I think she is so used to watching Sesame Street on the television, that seeing anything else just seems wrong to her.   She is more willing to at least try some new shows on the ipad.

I tried Dora, she watched one episode and then wasn’t very interested.  I don’t understand the appeal.  Compared to Sesame Street it seems slow and boring.  And the parts that are trying to be educational seem kind of contrived and weird.  I also wonder about the Spanish words- is that confusing to a child who has language delays?

I tried the Backyardigans, Blues Clues,  a few animated movies and a dog and cat movie.  She did not like any of them.  There is one show that we discovered she will watch – The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss.  It is by the Jim Henson Company, so I suppose I should not be surprised.  But each episode is a real story, and fairly involved.  There’s no counting or letters, there is a little singing.   R. is choosing it herself.  She figured out how to find the Netflix icon, and will choose the show from a list of options.

I don’t mind letting her watch the show, it is cute and not too long.  I would like to encourage her to watch some of the shows and movies that other kids like, just to get her familiar with different characters and stories.   The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss seems kind of obscure.

I would appreciate any TV show or movie suggestions your kids like or even that you wish your kids liked.

Behold the ipad

Anybody know how remove washable markers?

R. was entranced by the ipad from the moment she saw it.  At first she just watched, and seemed kind of reluctant to touch it.   It is a little confusing to teach her, because each app works slightly differently in terms of what to touch and if she should press or swipe.     It works best if I show her hand over hand, but she prefers to watch me do it, and then use my finger as a stylus at first.

I don’t have a PECS program yet.  I’m going to research it a bit before spending the money.  I don’t think we will use it as a true AAC device if her language continues to progress.   But I think it could still be useful.  I would like to find something so that I could offer choices, like breakfast options or where she wants to go.

I’m kind of amazed how much the ipad inspires her to speak.  She echoes, she labels and even a little commenting if I can count Oh no.   In just a few days, she’s already used to a bit of ipad time before dinner.  We forgot the other night because we had visitors, and she actually started saying ipad, ipad, ipad, totally unprompted and with it out of sight.

I’m going crazy downloading apps, trying to find ones that are good and that she will like.   Many of them have intro or accompanying music that she hates.      Some of the apps do have settings to turn off music and other sounds.  I have to go through the apps before I show them to her.

The free flash card app My First Words by Smart Baby is helpful to show her how to manipulate things on the ipad.  They are flash cards of objects in different categories of items (more categories are available for purchase).  Each card shows a picture, the word and the word is also spoken.  The app can be set up to automatically scroll through the cards, or manually so that the cards only advance after you touch them.  I found setting it up manually really showed her how to use the ipad.  She is really interested in the pictures and words, she will repeat them and it just looks like she is absorbing everything with such interest.  Another neat feature about this app is that you can record your own voice for each of the flash cards.

Another free app, Z is for Zebra is helping to teach her swiping/scrolling.   A screen comes up with the letters of the alphabet, and when you press one it takes you to a page with the letter in upper and lowercase and a picture of an object that starts with that letter.  You can touch each letter or the object and hear the letter or word.  I wish they actually displayed the word too.    You can also scroll through the alphabet by swiping left or right, she really liked doing this once she figured it out.   If you touch the wrong place it just goes back to the alphabet screen.  Many apps have lots of buttons that when touched accidentally take you out of the app, or other places.

iWrite words was suggested by the school’s OT.  The free version gives you the letters A,B,C  in upper and lower case, the numbers 1-9 and a few three letter words.   I upgraded this for $2.99, now we have the full alphabet, the numbers up to twenty and more words.    It displays the outline of a letter, and a little crab appears at the start point followed by numbers showing the direction to write.  You drag the crab through the numbers (connecting the dots) and the line shows up on the screen.   After the letter is completed a copy of what is drawn shows up in the upper left hand corner, and a small box with the same letter drops down so you can either tilt or drag it to a wheel that spins and the letter disappears.  It doesn’t sound very exciting, but R. loves doing this.  So each letter has  built in reinforcer.  R. usually starts using my finger, and after a few letters she will do it herself.   I wish you could select the letter or letters you want to work on instead of having to go through them in sequence.    I wonder if they will come up with some ipad-friendly stylus for handwriting practice.

Color SlapPs is a free program to practice color recognition.  You can select which colors you want as options, (I removed peach) and choose from one, two or three colors on the screen at a time.   A voice says touch brown or whatever color is next, and when brown is touched it spins and disappears.  You can choose to cycle through five or ten times, and when the round is completed two stick figure children appear and jump up and down and the sounds of cheering and applause is heard.  I’m surprised how much R. likes this, she smiles at those little figures.

The Dr. Seuss interactive book apps are amazing.  When you select read to me, the words turn red as they are being said.  R. is so fascinated.    I am too, because while she might occasionally sit through part of the ABC book, she will leave the room if I read Cat in the Hat.   On the ipad, she is fully engaged with both books.   She actually likes them better than the sample of a Sesame Street book I downloaded.  I think it is the words lighting up red that is so engaging.   Who do I have to talk to for an app for Polar Bear, Polar Bear?