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There are thousands of apps claiming to help children and young people with autism, but which are any good? Sal McKeown from our SEN team selects her favourites.

Start the clock

The top choice of apps for children of all ages is a timer. Use the one on your phone.

When children need to keep track of time an app saves a lot of arguments and disasters.

'Ten minutes to bedtime', or 'three minutes on the cross trainer' are a challenge for those who get lost in their own thoughts, and reminders can lead to arguments, but an app is less confrontational and makes them feel more in control.

Exploring feelings

For younger children, one of the most attractive apps is SmartyPants (Apple and Android) from Inclusive Technology, which lets children explore and talk about feelings.

Smile at Me, an app developed for the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, is designed to help children with autism interpret social cues to determine when smiling is a good response.

Book Creator lets children make up their own stories, put in photos, add voices, write text and export them to iBooks. Families with young children might make books about home or nursery, for teenagers the same app is an ideal vehicle for social stories.


Children want to play games and have fun, but many children with autism like something a little more strategic than the shoot 'em up type games. Two of the most popular are Subway Surfers (Apple and Android), an adventure with fast and furious action but with no blood or gore, and Minecraft, where children create a game world that possesses a similar logic to the real world, but can be edited and manipulated quite easily.

Creative types

Some autistic children like art apps where they can paint and create illustrations without getting their hands dirty. Use Shadow Puppet to create a photo story and add an audio track or commentary. Choose a picture of a famous person and use the Morfo app to transform the image into a talking 3D character.

For young children who like music try Music Box Free. It is easy to use, ideal for those with low frustration levels, and has lots of instruments to play. GarageBand is the proper professional package. With a variety of instruments, recording and editing facilities, it's like having a recording studio in your pocket.


For secondary aged students, have a look at Talking Mats Taster, which is a structured way of getting young people with communication difficulties to think and talk about topics such as hobbies, and people they like working with at school. Talking Mats Taster includes 10 symbols from the Leisure (Home) symbol set in a free App for iOS and Android devices.

For those who need communication support an AAC app Proloquo2go on the iPad is a good choice for some young people who need AAC (Assistive and Augmentative Communication). Families and support staff can programme the app with the most useful and relevant PECS symbols which the software will speak out loud. Once this is done it opens up a world of independent communication.

Coping strategies

Brain in Hand is an app to increase independence. It lets users plan out their week, identify with help the possible stress moments, and plan strategies to help them cope. Part of the value of Brain In Hand is it has led to better discussions of problems and coping strategies between the user and their key worker or a family member. The app also features a red button that users can press to call for help in time of crisis.

Social networks

Autism Connect is the UK's first social network for people with autism and their families. It is autism friendly with lots of free information resources, videos for professionals and for siblings.  It is completely free but is only for an iPad and they are looking for further funding to develop an Android app.

Look out on blogs and forums for other suggestions from families because you may find the perfect app to match your own child's interests and enthusiasms.



 Apple and Android

 Smile at Me

 Apple only

 Book Creator

 Apple and Android

 Subway Surfers

 Apple and Android


  Apple and Android

 Shadow Puppet

 Apple only


 Apple only

 Talking mats

 Apple and Android

 Garage Band

 Apple only but imitators on  Android such as PocketBand


 Apple only

 Brain in Hand

 Apple and Android

 Autism Connect

 Apple only




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