THE BLOG

Surveying the Best iPad Apps for Special Needs Students

07/29/2013 04:29 pm ET | Updated Sep 28, 2013

While iPads and touchscreen devices are impacting virtually every level of educational instruction, apps designed for special needs students are particularly transformative. These five apps for students with autism, dyslexia, Attention Deficit Disorders and speech issues are among the best of hundreds of worthy titles available.

Reading Comprehension Camp ($19.99)
Performance on state testing is often the sole determination of whether a special education student receives a general or special diploma, so proficiency in reading comprehension is a critical skill, particularly for middle school students. Reading Comprehension Camp addresses this all important skill, and is created by a high school English teacher and his speech therapist wife. It has solid educational and therapeutic underpinnings. Students can work independently or in groups with questions tailored to their specific areas of weakness. While comprehension is the primary focus, the ability to record students reading passages out loud provides a bonus means to assess fluency and all data is backed up in the Therapy Report Center. The stories are gender neutral and cover topics which would generally be within most students' frame of reference.

VAST Autism 1 - Core ($4.99)
The simplicity of this app shows young children how to form words using video modeling and auditory and visual cueing. These are all excellent strategies to use with young children with autism. The videos are focused on one area -- the mouth, which allows children with autism to focus on the area necessary to mimic or reproduce the target word or sound. The multi-sensory approach is appealing to children, therapists, and parents. This therapeutic tool is one that parents and therapists must have in their toolkit! The videos are simple to use. However, VAST Autism Core is really designed to be used with adult supervision for younger children.

Articulation Station (Free)
Articulation Station addresses all English consonant speech sounds your child may have difficulty expressing. Individual speech sounds (ranging in price from $0.99 to $5.99) may be purchased based on your child's needs. Video tutorials are also available for parents to use as a guide. With the purchase of the entire package of speech sounds, custom images can be added to the image library. This app teaches the user how to correctly articulate (say) speech sounds within a word (ex. initial, medial, and final). Levels of practice (words, sentences, or stories) can be personalized for each user. While working, users have the option to record their voice for auditory feedback. All data and recordings can be stored within the app and shared via email.

Avaz - AAC App for Autism ($99.99)
Avaz is an Augmentative and Alternative Communication App for non-verbal children. Avaz gives children who did not have a voice an opportunity to be a part of the class. If they are working with their speech therapist, the app can track the session to show student progress. It has the option of using the pre-made picture folders that came with the app or develop more personalized folders that can be color-coded and have anywhere from 1- 24 pictures in a folder. Folders can be made by pressing the + add new. You can either add a new message in a prior category or develop a new category.

Visual Attention TherAPPy ($9.99)
Any app that contains therapy in the name makes us leery, but when it's created by a licensed speech therapist and peer reviewed research supporting its methodology for use with dyslexia is cited on the developer's website, it merits a close look. Visual Attention TherAppy seeks to improve scanning ability and discrimination of letters and symbols which, if successful, should translate into better reading fluency. The iPad lets users complete their therapy on the go, so odds are there will be better compliance. Extensive, emailable data reporting lets parents and teachers supervise progress.

These app selections were curated by multiple appoLearning Advisors including Jill Goodman, Hilary Brumer, Lisa West, and Vicki Windman.