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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

7 Apps that Help Kids with Special Needs

By Tanni Haas

Like any other kids, kids with special needs are diverse, and there are many educational apps that can help them with their specific needs. Here are some of the best ones, and they’re all free. 

ChatterPix Kids Available at Apple App Store & Google Play. This app is great for kids who need help practicing their oral communication skills. They can either upload or take a picture of themselves, draw a mouth, and then record anything they want to say. It’s particularly useful if you’re having a difficult conversation at home and your kids find it easier to express their views through an avatar rather than directly to you. It can also be useful in school if your kids require extra time composing answers to teachers’ questions. They can record and re-record their responses until they get them just the way they want them. Available at Apple App Store & Google Play. Drawing on the latest psychological and behavioral research, this great app assumes that a key to achieving one’s goals is to develop good, consistent habits. Users decide which habits they’d like to develop, track those habits over time, receive reminders, and then get positive feedback (high-fives) when they reach their goals. Depending on their age and maturity, your kids can either use this app on their own or with a little help from you.

Emotionary Available at Apple App Store & Google Play. If you want to help your kids better understand other people’s emotions, the best thing you can do is help them better understand their own. This app has more than 100 short, dictionary-style definitions of common emotions, each accompanied by an emoticon. This helps kids develop a rich emotional vocabulary, and it teaches them coping skills so that they don’t let their feelings overwhelm them. They can create their own emoticons for emotions they think aren’t included in the app but are really important to them. 

iOT Session Available at Apple App Store. Created by a well-known occupational therapist, Dr. Frederick Covington, this app features lots of kid-friendly, game-like exercises aimed at improving their visual perception, tracking, and coordination. It also improves fine motor skills, especially kids’ ability to create proper letters. Your kids can use it, on their own or with your help, to track their progress over time.

MindShift CBT Available at Apple App Store & Google Play. Based on cognitive behavioral therapy, which is widely used, this app teaches kids how to deal with different anxiety-provoking situations, such as conflicts, social situations, and tests. It features tools that help users relax, practice mindfulness, and re-orient their thoughts. It has audio recordings with guided mediations, a journal for users to record thoughts that make them the most anxious, and general tips for managing anxiety.

Model Me Going Places 2 Available at Apple App Store. This social skills app teaches kids how to interact with different kinds of people that they encounter in their daily lives, such as grocery store clerks, hairdressers, doctors, and restaurant waiters. It has 12-photo slideshows that model kids engaging in appropriate behaviors with people in various settings.

My Little Suitcase Available at Apple App Store. This game-like app, which can be played by up to four people, enhances kids’ ability to memorize and match items. Similar to the popular card game Memory, each player has a suitcase with six different items represented on a small card that is faced down. Players take turns turning over the cards. If the card is theirs, they put it in their suitcase. If not, it’s the next player’s turn. Aside from improving their working memory and retention skills, they learn how to focus, categorize, and engage in proper turn-taking. It’s a great game for the whole family.  

Tanni Haas, PhD, is a college communications professor.