Mobile apps for smartphones and tablets increasingly purport to offer therapeutic benefits for children with autism, but which are the best ones?
This list of four apps offers you a good start. These apps can work well in conjunction with ABA therapy. Your child’s ABA therapist may also offer some suggestions for the best apps to use with your child.
ABA Therapy for Autism
Since autism is a developmental disorder, there is no cure. However, there are many approaches to treatment through behavior therapy and associated therapies, like speech therapy and occupational therapy. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the leading approach to behavior therapy, using evidence-based approaches to create a treatment plan.
ABA is an evidence-based approach to behavior therapy for several behavioral and developmental conditions, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Once your child begins ABA therapy, you want to ensure that they begin to apply these skills to everyday life, not just in their therapy sessions.
An ABA therapist will divide your child’s treatment plan up into measurable steps, so they can use each session to support your child in building social, communicative, and cognitive skills. They will establish larger goals for your child, and break these down into smaller, attainable goals. You’ll be involved in every step of the process.
Mobile Apps & ABA Therapy: Support for Your Child
Children on the autism spectrum sometimes have difficulty taking the skills they learn in an ABA therapy session and transferring them to other areas of their lives, like everyday activities at school or home. Finding ways to incorporate ABA therapy into home life can support a broader understanding of these skills, which helps the child become a healthier, more independent adult.
Parents often work closely with ABA therapists, which means they can receive some coaching for how to structure time at home to encourage socializing or communication. As fast, high-quality technology like smartphones and laptops become even more accessible, digital support options are becoming increasingly important.
Several mobile apps claim to support children with autism, but finding apps that connect to your child’s ABA therapy sessions can be more complicated. You can certainly ask your ABA therapist about options they would recommend, and every parent should do this. Your child’s ABA therapist knows what your child is specifically working on and which apps may work best to augment their learning.
This list of the top four apps that use child psychology and ABA therapy techniques can get you started on your journey. It can also give you a starting place for a discussion with your child’s ABA therapist.
The 4 Best Apps to Use in Conjunction With ABA Therapy
1. Otsimo: This is one of the leading apps for children with autism, and it’s based on ABA therapy. Otsimo was developed with input from child psychologists, and it features fun, exciting games that also continue skill-building practices that children learn during their ABA therapy sessions.
Many children with autism struggle with attention deficit issues that can make standard classroom or therapy sessions difficult. With the help of this app, your child’s behavioral lessons can continue in other settings outside the therapist’s office or the individual session in your home.
There are 13 “areas” in the app, with 80 different stories and games, addressing a range of specific skills that children with autism work hard to learn. Examples include vocabulary, daily tasks, numbers and math, and other areas.
While many apps designed by clinicians and recommended by doctors cost money, Otsimo is free to download. It works with both Android and Apple devices.
2. Social Detective: Although less interactive than many game-based apps, Social Detective offers fun and educational videos about understanding social situations. Children ages 6 and older, whether they are on the autism spectrum or not, can benefit from this series. It is based on the popular kid’s book, You Are a Social Detective.
Videos are short, at only 30 seconds long at most, and they show both expected and unexpected behaviors in a range of social situations. The shorts encourage kids to make guesses about what will happen next, helping them to understand reactions in different contexts. Situations include waiting in line, taking turns, eating in a crowded cafeteria, and going into a classroom. Emotions are labeled, and the language used is straightforward.
Since the app is designed for educational purposes, it does cost to download it. The price is $17.99, and it is currently only available for Apple products.
Social Detective can support ABA therapy practices around how to act in social situations, communicate needs, and practice patience with others.
3. Brili Routines: This app is predominantly a scheduling app, but the interactivity can make it feel like a game while teaching children with autism important lessons about scheduling their time and completing tasks.
Visual schedules allow for intricate planning with the ability to reschedule and adjust timing as needed. One struggle that many children with autism face is feeling anxious or overwhelmed when something changes. Brili shows that they can establish a regular schedule so they can anticipate much of their day while also building in flexible time. With a few screen touches, users can adjust for new or uncertain events, updating their schedule.
Parents and teachers can have access to this app too, creating schedules or adjusting them when needed. ABA therapists can use this app to work with children on emotional regulation and planning ahead, which are both areas that children with autism struggle with outside of therapy sessions.
The app is designed for children who are 2 or older, along with their caregivers. It is free to download, and it works on both Android and Apple systems.
4. AutismTrack: This app is designed for parents or other caregivers of people with autism. You can use this tool to track symptoms, behavioral changes, and interventions, including therapy, diet and nutrition, medication, and more.
Sliders for each day can help you track when some symptoms, like repetitive behaviors, tantrums, or social isolation, get better or worse. There are multiple reporting features so you can share information with other caregivers, like teachers or therapists, in your child’s life. This can be especially helpful for parents working with ABA therapists, as they can report on how behavioral interventions work at home. Objective data can show your ABA therapist that your child is making progress or that part of the treatment plan needs to be adjusted.
Currently, AutismTrack is just for Apple iPhones and iPads. It costs $9.99 to download.
Talk to Your Child’s ABA Therapist for Further Support
These apps are a good way to support your child’s ABA therapy sessions, but they are no replacement for behavior therapy. Working with an ABA therapist ensures your child receives personal attention and a treatment plan, which can be adjusted as needed. Like many other tools, these apps support the learning and growth process, but they can’t be used in place of traditional treatment.
Your ABA therapist may have additional recommendations for apps, which support their specific approach to treatment. Ask them what they think will work best for your child.
Otsimo: Special Education ABA. Educational App Store.
Social Detective. Commonsense Media.
Brili Routines – Visual Timer. Commonsense Media.
AutismTrack. HandHold Adaptive.