April was National Autism Awareness Month. Parents, educators and individuals with autism around the country used this as an opportunity to raise public awareness of autism, and improve general understanding of what it means to have autism. Did you know that 1 out of every 64 children us somewhere on the Autism Disorder Spectrum?
The challenges for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder generally fall into one of these three broad categories:
- Social Interaction – They struggle to understand how communication or interaction happens between people. They can struggle with the rules, regulations and systems that children generally learn rapidly.
- Repetitive Behaviours – Children with Autism often fall into patterns of repetitive behaviour, some of which cane be highly damaging such as banging their heads on walls or other hard objects. For the same reason children with autism also often thrive in a scheduled, structured, repetitive and predictable environment.
- Verbal and Non-Verbal Communications – Children with autism can often struggle to both send and receive information vi both verbal and non-verbal means.
One thing that was brought to our attention throughout April are the number of apps available to support children with Autism Spectrum Disorder on their unique learning journey. Check out this list of 6 apps for children with Autism that support learning and life skills in a variety of environments.
This app is ideal for keeping children and young people with autism connected with their support network. Running in the background on your mobile device, it connects your location with the locations of your loved ones who have opted in to use the service. You can then open an intuitive app to see where the members of your group are on a map, and send the messages. You can also set it up to send alerts when certain individuals leave or arrive in specific locations, such as home or work. This is ideal for children and young people with autism who find it distressing to be separated from their support network. I can think of quite a few parents who would find this app useful, regardless of whether their children have autism or not.
Children and young people with autism often thrive off regularity and schedule as many prefer for things to be familiar and predictable. This app is a wearable picture-based scheduler designed specifically with children, and adults, with autism. Using the app, caregivers can put together a visual schedule for the day that the child can carry with them to keep an eye on what is coming up next. It comes with easily recognisable icons to represent common tasks, and users can also upload their own meaningful pictures and photos. The app can also send alerts for when it is time to change tasks. It has been well designed to work with Apple watch.
This app was designed by Autism caregivers to help them keep track of a child with autism’s behaviour in order to recognise patterns and triggers that will help them create a better environment for the child, and better predict crises. Both caregivers and children can enter behaviours, health and daily living tasks on the fly using an intuitive iOS or Android app. The app then visualizes the data collected to enable caregivers to more easily determine what is working in a child’s daily schedule, and what needs to be changed.
This app uses the child friendly character Rufus to teach emotion words, the facial expressions associated with different emotions, and how to identify these emotions in other people. With time this app can help children both better understand their own emotions, and identify emotions in others. The game is also customizable to meet the needs of children with varying different ability levels in this area. The company that makes the app aims to deliver effective education through entertainment, and understand that children with Autism need fun and inspiration just like other growing young minds.
Stories to Learn lets parents and educators create personalised stories using their own photos, text and audio. This can be used by caregivers to prepare children for future events by describing likely scenarios. It can also be used by children with Autism to put together and share stories about themselves, to help them put their own emotions in order, and share their feelings with others. This is an ideal app to support children who struggle with communication.
This app is designed to help children with autism learn to navigate challenging locations in the community. It contains a number of locations that children are likely to encounter regularly, such as the hairdresser, mall, doctor’s office and grocery store, and uses a photo slideshow or videos to show children modelling appropriate behaviour in this location. The videos are accompanied by music created by a Board-Certified Music Therapist designed to reinforce the lessons learned.
While every child, young person and adult with Autism is different, they also have a range of shared experience. If you want to learn more about the experience of Autism consider reading some of the miraculous books written by Naoki Higashida, a Japanese youth with Autism who, while struggling to communicate verbally, is a prolific writer. Higashida wrote The Reason I Jump in 2007 when he was just 13 years old and it gives his frank and often surprising responses to 58 frequently asked questions about Autism. It has been translated into English by David Mitchell and his wife Keiko Yoshida who found it useful in helping them understand their own son with Autism. His follow up book on Autism Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8 published in 2011 is also very interesting.