Tablet Devices and Apps for supporting Students with Autism

Author: NCSE Advisors and Therapy team members

clip-art of two hands holding an iPad

The Benefits of Using Tablets and Apps

A tablet device (iPad or Android) is very accessible, it builds on the human innate skill of pointing to communicate. It has an open screen with pictures which are clear representations of each App. Apps can be used to support teaching and learning to enable students to respond in a meaningful way to the world around them. They also support their development of specific areas including sensory processing, and communication and language.  Some other advantages of app-based learning are possibilities for reinforcement of learning goals to enable students to develop skills for life. Typically, Apps have a variety of levels that can be adjusted easily or automatically to meet the specific needs of learners. There is also the opportunity for enhanced learning opportunities for students with continuation or extension of the learning environment from school to home.

As well as carefully chosen Apps, a device can provide users with increased access to content with in-built features such as voice recognition software, in-built captioning, in-built text being read aloud, and a wide range of other accessibility features. A parent or teacher might avail of the facility to lock a particular app or setting, a timer which enables the user to focus on a specific task without distractions.

There is a very large range of Apps available for students with autism– some respond to sensory needs by providing lights and sounds that respond to touch and swipe actions by the user; providing pictorial representations for language needs; and providing clarity with a format to match words with pictures or video, all presented in a modern, portable and convenient device.

Supporting Schools

The NCSE provide a seminar for teachers titled Supporting Students with Autism through the use of iPad Apps. The aim of this course is to give teachers an understanding of useful Apps for iPads to support the needs of their students with Autism. Attendees explore practical examples of ways of incorporating Apps to enhance the teaching and learning in their classrooms to meet the curricular targets for students. They also provide opportunities for students to access their passionate interests and activities. This course is suitable for all educational settings. NCSE Advisors are also available to provide school support with school support visits and School staff CPD.

Supporting Students

Based on their strengths, needs and developmental level, students may respond to the style of an app based on pictures to communicate their wishes. Students who use Apps for the iPad such as Grace or Proloquo2go have demonstrated increased levels of communication and interaction with the world around them, facilitating a reduction in frustration levels. The following Apps are really useful to support the sensory needs of your student with Autism.

  • Please remember that not all apps are suitable for all students’ needs – so please take the time to consider which would match to your student’s needs and preferences.
  • We would recommend that you would build Sensory Breaks into student’s day to support the development of their regulation skills.

Draw with Stars! Play with Shooting Stars (L’Escapadou) -available from Apps Store

Draw with stars app logo

Stars appear as you draw your finger along the screen, tap a star and it flies away, shake the tablet and all stars fly away to clear the skies. Musical sounds enhance the experience. Practise spellings, letter shapes, or relax with the sensory experience.

Mindful Gnats (Handaxe Limited) -available from Apps Store and Google Play Store

Mindful Gnats app logo

This app is an evidence-based app designed to teach young people simple mindfulness and relaxation skills. It enables students to develop strategies to help reduce heightened stress levels to support their regulation.  It can be also used to support students’ mindfulness practice when playing the Mindful Gnats desktop game (see for details), or as a stand-alone aid to mindful practice.

NCSE Seminars and Support of interest:

The NCSE suite of Seminars includes:

  • Supporting Students with Autism through the use of (iPad) Apps
  • Supporting Dyslexia through the use of (iPad) Apps
  • Assistive Technology Voice Recognition to support students with Physical Disability and SLD
  • Assistive Technology Freeware supporting SLD including Dyslexia (Windows)

Seminar bookings can be confirmed via the NCSE Teacher Professional Learning Portal.

Bookings for school support visits, or school CPD facilitated an NCSE Advisor, can be made using the NCSE School Support Portal:

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