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There are thousands of apps claiming to help children and young people with autism, but which are any good? We have narrowed down the field and give you our favourites.

1. 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. There are particular apps you can download which make your visual timer a little more child-friendly. Eg Visual Timer (Apple or Android)

'Ten minutes to bedtime', or ‘Just thirty minutes on Minecraft’ are a challenge for those have difficulty with time management and reminders can lead to arguments, but an app is less confrontational and makes them feel more in control.

2. Exploring feelings

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

Book Creator (Apple) 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.

3. Gamers

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 (Apple and Android, where children create a game world that possesses a similar logic to the real world, but can be edited and manipulated quite easily.

For parents who are concerned that their young child’s gaming is unhealthy, there is Chill Panda (, Apple and Android)), an app which draws on scientific evidence to explore mental health skills, measure heart-rate and reduce stress. Aimed at younger children, the games embrace recognised de-stressers, including breathing techniques and yoga to ‘play your way to a calmer day’. Apple or Nintendo Switch

4. Creative types

Some autistic children like art apps where they can paint and create illustrations without getting their hands dirty. Paint pictures using coloured sand in the fun and calming app Thisissand.

For young children (5+) unfamiliar with music theory, try Easy Music, which provides an introduction to rhythm, notes and melody within cartoon imagery. They can experiment composing their own tunes interactively with a range of instruments and musical genres. For more accomplished musicians, 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.

Childline has discontinued its app, but is present on social media (facebook, instagram) and has a Toolbox for art activities, games and puzzles. It includes a wall of expression, for writing down grievances then blasting them away. Their ‘Ask Sam’ facility answers questions and allows for a confidential chat with a counsellor.

5. Communication

For secondary aged students, have a look at Talking Mats, 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 Version 2 which now enables you to upload your own photos. Topics include eating and drinking, designed by a range of professionals, which enables discussion about food and strategies for managing difficulties with restricted and fussy eating. Available for iOS and Android devices (and in physical form).

For those who need communication support an AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) app Proloquo2go on the iPad is a good choice. Families and support staff can programme the app with the most useful and relevant PECS symbols which the software will speak out loud, in a choice of four languages. Typing can be learned on a grid or keyboard and there’s a lexicon of 10,000 vocabulary words which can be adjusted for learning level. Once this is done it opens up a world of independent communication.

6. Coping strategies

Brain in Hand is an app to increase independence and reduce anxiety. 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.

7. Social networks

TellMi (previously called Meetoo)(Apple or Android) A problem shared is a problem halved, they say. Meetoo is a social media community for teens and young people, which is confidential, anonymous and free. The app encourages youngsters to share their worries and experiences within a community of peers and contains a wealth of professional advice about growing up and mental health. Each post is checked by a real person, not a Bot, and checked for suitability; approved by the NHS.

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