Boy with iPad

In the world of developmental disabilities, smartphone and iPad apps have been life changing. They help users communicate and offer many therapeutic, educational and behavioral benefits. They are socially acceptable, small and can be taken most anywhere. They are also relatively inexpensive with many even being free.


Orion ISO has created a list of some of the most popular and helpful apps for people with disabilities. Many of these are geared towards those with autism and communication needs. We have an extensive list of more great apps on a variety of topics on the Helpful Technologies page of our website.


Autism Xpress – Helps children with autism recognize emotional expressions and facial cues through interactive games, emotion memory and expression questions. Available on Apple iPhone, iPad, iTouch and most Android mobile and tablet devices.


Grace App for Autism – Helps children with autism and other special needs to communicate effectively by building semantic sequences from relevant images to form sentences. The app can be easily customized by using picture and photo vocabulary of the user’s choice. This app supports consistency in communication, independence and helps build social skills. Available from iTunes.


Story Builder – A reading app designed to help children improve paragraph formation, integration of ideas and higher level abstractions by inference. This app uses audio clips to promote improved auditory processing for special needs children with autism spectrum disorders or sensory processing disorders. Story Builder offers a rich and fun environment for improving the ability to create a narrative. Available from iTunes.


Conversation Builder – This app is designed to help elementary aged children learn how to have multi-exchange conversations with their peers in a variety of social settings. The auditory pattern of conversation is presented in a visual format to help students recognize and master the flow of conversation. Students learn when it is appropriate to introduce themselves, ask questions, make observations and change the subject of the conversation. Available from iTunes.


Between the Lines – This app is designed for primary (elementary)  school students through young adults who would benefit from practice interpreting vocal intonation, facial expressions, perspective-taking, body language, and idiomatic or slang expressions. There are three levels available – Level 1, 2 and Advanced. Between the Lines uses real photographs, voices and short mini-video clips of a variety of social situations and expressions. This app provides a dynamic way to help learn and practice interpreting the messages that are “between the lines” and simply can’t be replicated with worksheets and static flashcards. Available from iTunes.


Community Success – This app helps students with developmental disabilities including autism, prepare for community outings and eventual independence by helping them master a myriad of social interactions. For example, what do you say to a store clerk or who gets off an elevator first? It also requires execution of step-by-step sequences: find crosswalk, push “walk,” wait for “walk” sign, stay in crosswalk. Information is made accessible through video modeling, photo-based directions, talking stories, and vivid illustrations of social behaviors. This is available in computer software or as an iPad app.


Read to Learn – An interactive literacy and life skills app that features three heavily illustrated, interactive books with age-appropriate themes: life skills reader, safety skills reader and focus on feelings. These books feature 85 unique stories, each with graded comprehension exercises. All text is spoken by professional narrators and highlighted as its read. Readers can touch any word at any time to hear it pronounced, and are given a definition for especially pertinent vocabulary. Available through Attainment Company or through iTunes.


Conversation TherAppy – This app is an open-ended speech and language tool designed for use with 9 year olds to adults. The app contains sets of pictures organized into categories, such as family, health, safety and problems. Users can use the photos to jump start a variety of conversations. The app presents a series of questions about each photo that can be turned on or off, according to the needs of each user. Question types that can be filtered are describe, define, remember, decide, feel, infer, predict, narrate, evaluate, and brainstorm. Available on iTunes.


Social Success – This app is an interactive social skill tutorial for adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities, including autism. It covers 50 social skills in an easy-to-navigate interface, so students can work independently or in self-directed groups. Each skill has five activities: Intro, Steps, Self-Talk, Movie, and Problem Solving. Available asWin/Mac software or on iTunes.


Difficult Situations Fun Deck – This educational app has 56 illustrated picture flash cards (plus audio of each card’s text). Users can select the cards they want to use in order to teach and discuss safety, and talk about feelings and emotions as they learn how to react and solve problems quickly in a variety of stressful situations. The prompts include situations like, “Someone at school is bullying you and won’t stop,” and “Someone calls your house when you are alone and asks to speak to your mom.”  Available on iTunes.


i Get….Going to a Restaurant – This interactive app helps users with developmental disabilities navigate the experience of going to a restaurant by using vocabulary photo books and a social skills story. Each page of the book can be individualized for the user by importing personal photos, add text and audio. Available on iTunes.




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