Apps for the iPad are making an amazing difference for many children on the autism spectrum. But which apps are best, and how do you filter through the growing list of available apps?

apps to change your child with autism's life

Here’s our short list of helpful apps, some that are specifically for children with autism and some that just might surprise you.

Today, 1 in 88 American children are identified as being on the autism spectrum. But some amazing iPad apps are truly making a difference for autistic children in terms of communication, the development of important social skills and their overall ability to learn.

Natalie Webber, M.S., CCC-SLP, explains why the iPad is so helpful: "The iPad has become a great tool when working with students on the autism spectrum because it gives them the ability to control a piece of their environment and an opportunity to communicate."

To get a sense of which apps are most helpful, I asked Webber and some mothers with children with autism to share their favorite apps with us.

Here is their list of best iPad apps for children with autism:

Webber's picks

Understanding Inferences appSuper Duper "Understanding Inferences"

Webber recommends the Super Duper “Understanding Inferences Fun Deck" because “it’s great for making 'smart guesses' for inferencing and for reasoning skills.”

Price: $3

ConversationBuilder appConversationBuilder™

Webber also highly recommends ConversationBuilder™ and says it’s incredibly helpful for high-functioning autistic children who are working on identifying and constructing appropriate conversations.

Price: $20

Webber Super Duper "What Are They Thinking?"

Webber placed the Super Duper "What Are They Thinking?" app on her short list because she finds it excellent for syntactic, semantic and social language development. This fun app aims to improve your child's inferencing, reasoning and conversational skills.

Price: $2

Learn 10 things you should know about autism >>

What moms say


Proloquo2Go app

Julie Fenzel says the one app that has impacted her daughter most is Proloquo2Go. She explains, “Devon is nonverbal. This program has changed her (and our family) for the better. Devon's frustration level has gone down since she is now able to communicate independently. We no longer have to guess what she wants. This program has given her a voice.”

Kimberly Widner echoes Fenzel’s recommendation: “The one app that we use that has really been life changing is Proloquo2Go. This app has just changed the way our girls communicate with us. My girls are 4 years old and nonverbal, so really, the only way we had to communicate before the iPads and Proloquo2Go was the picture exchange system and a lot of guessing.”

Price: $190 


GarageBand appSunday Stilwell, mother to two sons with autism, lists GarageBand as one of her older son’s favorite iPad apps. “Sam's favorite apps are the ones that allow him to arrange and play music. He is excellent at picking out the names of obscure percussion instruments by simply hearing them played.”  With this popular app, kids can play pianos, organs, guitars, drums and basses.

Price: $5

Drawing Pad appDrawing Pad

Stilwell adds her younger son benefits most from art apps, specifically Drawing Pad, because they “give him the opportunity to draw and write words. Thanks to the iPad, there have been many times when he has written a word for an item he wants and brought his iPad to me to request it.”

Price: $2

And the list goes on

These six iPad apps make up just a small handful of the empowering iPad apps available for children with autism. Don’t miss this comprehensive list of iPad app reviews and resources for those with autism, compiled by Shannon Rosa.

More about autism

Safety tips for kids with autism
No more Asperger's: What it means for your child
The upside to autism: Joyful reflections from parents


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Comments on "Best iPad apps for children with autism"

Val January 30, 2014 | 4:43 PM

Because of the Ipad We were able to know that my son who is nonverbal can write, read We love the Ipad!

David December 27, 2013 | 9:40 PM

Ian, I also would like to know which app helped your child with speech. I want to get it for my granddaughter . Thanks!

Elizabeth December 22, 2013 | 9:15 AM

Hi Ian, Which app was it that helped your nonverbal son with autism start making 2-4 word sentences? Our son used to be high functioning but has lost all of his language and even his ability to write. We are very interested now that he has an ipad in finding out which apps could help him recover his ability to communicate.

Ian Smithson December 20, 2013 | 1:37 AM

What a difference a year makes! After trying every app out there including many of those mentioned Just last week we discovered a new kind of smart app for kids with autism that is a game changer for kids like our son Gus ( aged 6). He has a severe form of non-verbal autism but after only 2 days is making 4 word sentences like his younger sister. Previously he would just get frustrated and refuse to communicate. What an exciting time we live in.

claudia September 11, 2013 | 12:01 AM

good day for all I'm intrested in autism apps that doesn't requier a specific languege, I mean that depend on pictuers,that suit young kids , dose any one know any app that meet the need ? thanks

JB November 07, 2012 | 8:35 AM

The title of this article isn't person first format. "iPad apps to change your autistic child's life" It isn't an "autistic child" it is a child first who has autism. Thanks.

Ana August 16, 2012 | 4:21 AM

Hi Lyla.Which Ipad did you buy your son. Thanks Ana

Lyla May 26, 2012 | 9:42 AM

Our ipad has made all of the difference for our son who frustrates very easily. He loves to pay paintblaster which does not frustrate him at all. We are happy when he is happy.

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