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7 Great Apps For Kids With Special Needs

apps for communication, good habits and more

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 apps, and—even better—they’re all free.

ChatterPix Kids
Available at Apple Appstore; Google Play

This app is great for kids who need help practicing their oral communication skills. Kids 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 an answer to a teacher’s question. They can record and re-record their response until they get it just the way they want it.

Coach.me
Available at Apple Appstore; Google Play

Drawing on the latest psychological and behavioral research, this app assumes that one 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 Appstore; 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 a emoticon. This helps kids develop a rich vocabulary for expressing their emotions, and it teaches them coping skills so that they don’t become overwhelmed by their emotions. Kids can create their own emoticons for emotions they think aren’t included in the app but are really important to them too.

iOT Session
Available at: Apple Appstore

Created by 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. The app is used by occupational therapists everywhere, but your kids can use it too—either on their own or with your help—to track their progress over time.

MindShift CBT
Available at: Apple Appstore; Google Play

Based on cognitive behavioral therapy, 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 Appstore

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 uses slideshows to model kids engaging in appropriate behaviors with people in different settings.

My Little Suitcase
Available at: Apple Appstore

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 the cards over. 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, Ph.D., is a contributing writer and a professor in the Department of Communication Arts, Sciences & Disorders at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College.

Image courtesy of iStock.