When you are told your child has special educational needs, you might feel scared, confused, or like you do not know how to help or what to do for them. Hopefully the teacher, specialist, or doctor who provided the diagnosis gave you information; but if not, or if you desire more, there are resources out there to help you navigate the waters. Whether your child has been diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder, ADD/ADHD, autism, or a learning disability, support is out there, if you know how to find it.
If you are seeking resources for information on your child’s special educational needs, an excellent place to start is www.understood.org. This site provides great articles specifically aimed towards parents of children with learning disabilities. Whether you have questions about treatments and approaches or tax deductions, the information is on this website.
Another comprehensive resource is www.specialeducationguide.com. If you go to their “K-12” section, the website provides definitions of terminology you may have heard in reference to your child, and the “Tools and Resources” section includes an exhaustive list of websites that you can refer to, arranged by diagnoses. These websites can help you find a local support group, which may be important to you. It can help to be surrounded by others who know how you feel.
Technology can be a powerful thing, not only in providing information at the push of a button, but it can also help your child with learning challenges in a new and interesting way. There are lots of educational apps out there, and some of them are targeted towards individuals with special needs. Then, some of them are not specifically targeted for those individuals, but the skills they exercise are particularly needed when a child has learning disabilities.
Below, we have chosen and ranked 20 of the best apps for special education needs here. The higher ranked special education apps are those that target practical social and daily skills, progressing towards those that are academic in nature. While both sets of skills are important, those that deal with activities of daily living or social interaction are relevant to children and adults alike every day, hence their important spot at the top of the rankings. Some apps provide practice in both, and those are obviously considered the most comprehensive apps listed.
Whether you are looking for the best Autism apps, best ADD/ADHD apps, or best apps for kids with special needs, these are some great resources.
20. Motion Math: Hungry Fish (All Ages)
Motion Math: Hungry Fish is based on the concept of mental math, providing a fun, simple, game of feeding the fish by doing addition. This is great, untraditional practice for kids with learning disabilities, who may have trouble maintaining focus in a traditional classroom setting.A unique factor of this math game is that it contains 18 levels of addition difficulty, making it easy to adapt to a child’s individual learning level. There are also in-app purchases available with levels on subtraction and negative numbers.
19. Rainbow Sentences (1st-5th grade)
This app is designed to help teach sentence building for younger kids, but kids with learning disabilities could benefit from its adaptable style. This app is unique because of the versatility of customization. The app uses pictures and color-coding to give, to those who need it, a visual cue that matches up with the sentence. Kids can master simple and complex sentences alike while adults track progression.If your child would benefit from fun, visual, guidance in sentence building, this app would be an excellent choice for you.
18. Kids Math Ace – Grade School (K-6th Grade)
Lots of kids with educational disabilities have an especially hard time with math concepts. This app provides visual stimulation based on math problems. The most important aspect of this app, for our purposes, is that each skill level can be adjusted individually based on the child’s expertise in the topic. This fun app may just be the ticket to helping your child learn math concepts that they have not quite grasped yet.
17. Motion Math Superb Bundle (Pre-K- 8th Grade)
The price listed below is for the entire bundle of Motion Math games, including 9 games for ages 3-15. The math skills practiced in these games progress from simple addition to learning basic economic concepts. Users state that these games have helped their easily distracted child remain engaged in the fun activities more than others, earning them a rightful spot on this list.These games are appropriate for children with learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, or any child who has trouble in a math classroom setting. Those with weaker attention spans will appreciate putting math concepts into practice, as opposed to memorizing them from a workbook.
Cost: $39.99 (for all levels of competency. Individually, the games range from $4.99-$6.99)
16. Spell Better – Literacy Support for Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Low Vision (2nd grade-12th grade)
Spell Better was created for those who struggle with writing confidence as a result of trouble spelling or forming sentences. Basically, it is an advanced form of the spell-checker that we use in text messaging, in a word processor form. The app was designed with dyslexia in mind, affecting the font choice and the predictive way that it corrects words. It also offers text-to-speech with words highlighted as they’re being read to improve visual recognition.This app can provide the confidence your young writer needs to assist them in writing assignments. The app can provide suggestions from phonetic spelling errors, skipped letter errors, and more, based on the context in which the word appears.
Cost: Free (A premium version is available for $24.99)
15. First Then Visual Schedule (Pre-Readers)
The First Then Visual Schedule app is a task manager app created for pre-readers. It provides a picture for each task to be completed, and a caregiver provides the order of events for the day so that a child can interpret it on the app. Knowing what to expect throughout the day is sometimes especially important to those on the Autism spectrum, and this app is especially designed to lower anxiety about the unexpected for those who do not read yet.Users can even add custom photos to represent each task and print off a paper copy of the schedule if the child prefers it. There are also several different formats (icons in order of occurrence or a list form) that can be used according to the preferences or needs of the child. The price is a little higher for a task-manager app, but if it reduces anxieties for your non-verbal child, it’s priceless.
14. Finish. The procrastinator’s to-do list. (4th grade-12th grade)
Another task manager app, “Finish. The procrastinator’s to-do list.” is most appropriate for the older children who have trouble keeping up with the tasks they need to complete. It is essentially a task manager, where one can enter the to-do items on their list and a deadline, and then you’re done until the deadline creeps up. The simplicity of this app is what makes it appropriate for those who find themselves distracted easily.A really unique feature of this app is its “Focus Mode”, which visually eliminates all to-do items besides those that are the highest priority at that moment. This can help keep the user from being overwhelmed with a number of tasks listed, focusing only on the ones that need to be done at that moment.
13. Miracle Modus (All Ages)
This app was designed by an individual with Autism who finds comfort in mathematically patterned rainbow lights. The app simply projects your choice of patterns with soothing sounds playing simultaneously.Some settings can be altered, but ultimately it is a simple visual of pretty lights and colors. This setup can provide comfort and calming to a child that might need a bit of a break.
12. Pocket Pond (All Ages)
Pocket Pond is another app for those who need a break from sensory stimulation. It is a realistic-looking pond scene that interacts to touch. Accompanied by a relaxing, natural soundtrack, the water ripples and moves when touched. The user can also feed the koi and make the frogs jump.This app, used with headphones, would be perfect for the child with a sensory processing disorder who needs to take a calming break. It is a simple app designed to be a temporary escape from the real world.
11. See.Touch.Learn Pro (All Ages)
See.Touch.Learn Pro is unique because of the sheer amount of lessons you can use with the app for your child with special needs. The lessons contain picture flash cards designed to teach vocabulary, and new forms of self-expression. Since ABA therapy for those with special needs largely depends on flash cards to represent new concepts, this app puts all of those flash cards in one place.There is an entire peer-based community that shares the lessons they have created, which the user can download. These downloads, plus the 2,200 exercises included in the Pro version of the app, you should never run out of lessons for your child.
10. Fluidity HD (All Ages)
Fluidity HD is another app designed to be a calming experience for those who may feel over-stimulated in their current environment. The interface is a constantly moving liquid, which can be controlled by touching the screen. The flow of the liquid and of course, color, can be altered, making this app therapeutic for anybody in need of a good calming session.In-app purchases allow you to include ambient sound, which can be important for some children with sensory processing disorders. Users can also purchase the option to output the calming visual to a different screen, if necessary.
Cost: Free for the basic version
9. Story Builder for iPad (1st Grade-3rd Grade)
This app can provide practice in reading aloud for children with learning disabilities, but its unique auditory qualities can also be helpful for those diagnosed with Autism or sensory processing disorders. The user will record narratives in their own voice, hopefully improving auditory processing skills. These recordings can be stored, for the child or caregiver to listen to and improve upon later.For users with learning disabilities, the app practices reading comprehension skills by asking questions throughout the stories, which are answered by choosing a written multiple choice answer. It also can improve on paragraph building with the fill-in-the-blank format.
8. My Word Wall (K-6th grade, depending on reading level)
This app was designed to improve budding reading skills for young learners. Four games in this app can improve reading skills by allowing them to hear the word vocalized while visualizing the word written on the screen, being prompted to say the word aloud. The games are presented on a colorful, interesting background, making it fun for children. Sight words and word families are emphasized, and the app caters to multiple learning styles with the four game options. This app is an excellent value for the price, encouraging young readers in a fun way.
7. Interactive Telling Time Lite (Pre-K – 6th Grade)
Telling time can be a difficult concept for children with learning difficulties, and this app offers a visually stimulating approach to the topic. This app is all-inclusive in its time lessons, teaching how to set a clock, convert between analog and digital time, determine AM/PM differences, and more. The skill of recognizing what time the clock says is an important part of learning independence for your child with special needs, and this is an interactive approach to teaching this invaluable lesson.
Cost: Free (Lite version)
6. My Little Suitcase – The Memory Board Game (Pre-K- 1st Grade)
My Little Suitcase is based on the board game you probably played as a kid with cards flipped upside down, and you found matches based on your memory of their placement. The game can be fun for all ages, but because of the number of cards available, it is probably more appropriate for a younger crowd.It has made this list because simple games are often the best option for “sneaky” learning, that is, learning without the easily distracted child realizing that they’re doing something educational. This app helps to expand vocabulary by providing specific words for items. Also important for our purposes, the app can accommodate 1-4 players, and taking turns with multiple players is excellent social practice.
5. Next Dollar Up (All Ages)
This app is invaluable in its lesson on practical money management. Next Dollar Up was not designed to help children count change, but to teach about money use in the real world. In this simple game, you are asked for a total based on your purchases as if you’re checking out at the grocery store. If the total is $1.99, for example, you are then expected to count out two, single dollar bills for the cashier, and that’s it!This may seem to be a little pointless since change is not counted and it is not necessarily teaching about counting out your money, but how often does one count out exact change when making a purchase? This makes a simple purchase a learning experience for those who don’t yet understand spending money, which is an essential skill for independence.
4. My First Voice Lite (All ages, appropriate for any Non-verbal child)
My First Voice Lite was created with Applied Behavior Analysis in mind for any child with non-verbal tendencies. It is a simple, child-friendly interface to help them communicate their needs that pertain to food, drink, clothing, toys, and emotions. For those who need it, the app can be used to create an AAC device simply by installing it to an appropriate device.You can do some customization with this app like choosing a voice option, a theme for backgrounds, and visual icon size. This is the lite version, and the paid versions offer full customization and more photos for communication needs.Overall, this app is an excellent value, because AAC devices can set you back thousands, whereas this app can be used for free for the same purposes.
3. ABA Flash Cards and Games – Emotions (All ages, Autism)
This app (one part of an entire series of ABA apps) was designed to teach users how to recognize emotions. Although the app is designed for ages 1-4 years old, it is the perfect tool to teach individuals with trouble reading social cues how to read emotions by facial expression. The app gives you the option of providing a picture and allowing you to choose the emotion from a list, or providing an emotion and allowing you to choose one of four facial expression pictures that seemingly expresses that emotion. Interpreting emotions is the only skill practiced in this download, but reading facial cues is an extremely important part of the skilled social interaction.
2. Brain Works (All Ages)
Children with ADD/ADD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, learning disabilities, and sensory processing disorders can benefit greatly by giving their brain a “break”. This app gives the child a visual list of possible activities that they can do, based on customization that an adult caregiver provides, to relieve the overwhelming feeling that they select from a menu, whether “slow and sluggish” or “fast and hyper”.When the child first opens the app, they choose a location, then how they are feeling. The location options that the child chooses from are “home, school, community, or desk/table”. The adult caregiver can customize suggested activities according to a location that the child chooses, depending on equipment available or appropriateness of the activity. This app is a wonderful concept for kids who can benefit from physical activity to help calm them down in stressful situations.
1. Autism Core Skills (Preschool-1st Grade)
This is an app created by autism experts to practice academic and social skills. The lessons are extremely well made, and an adult is able to choose a theme that would be the most effective motivation and reward for the individual child. If the child is particularly interested in sports, for instance, a sports scene will be in the background of the game as a motivator. Also, a short animated clip of a sport being played might be the reward for a job well done.One unique feature of this app is the ability to appoint an adult that can control, through another device, the lesson progression, and curriculum that the child follows. This is a comprehensive app designed very well towards the population of children on the Autism spectrum.
Cost: Free (with in-app purchases to upgrade to other versions)