Barefoot in Suburbia

Homeschooling & Special Needs, Inspired by the Montessori Way

Apps for Mild/Moderate Special Needs March 28, 2012

Filed under: Lower Elementary — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 12:05 am
Tags: , , , ,

The kids took most of last week off to enjoy the beautiful 80 degree weather we were having in Central Ohio, so I don’t have a real Montessori Monday post.  We’re back in the schoolroom this week (hey, it’s back in the 40’s and 50’s…time for school. 😉 before taking next week off for spring break.  So, instead of the usual posts, I want to publish a few of the non-Montessori posts I’ve had swirling around in my head.

As I promised last week, I want to do two separate technology related posts–one for apps that are useful for homeschooling in general, and one about apps I’ve found useful for Jedi.  So, first up is my post on apps for mild/moderate special needs.

Most people in the autism field know about the go-to apps.  There has been a lot written about using iPads as communication devices and the fantastic apps that are allowing non-verbal children to speak.  Jedi doesn’t need a verbal communication device and he no longer uses apps for social stories, etc.  However, there are several fantastic apps that we do use every day to help him.  Many of these apps would be great for children with Asperger’s, Dyslexia, or other mild/moderate special needs.  Of course, children without diagnosed special needs may find some of these helpful as well. 🙂


All of these are available in the iTunes market and may or may not be available in the Android Market.  I have not been paid to review any of these apps–these are simply just apps I’ve found to be useful and I wanted to pass the information on.  As always, talk to your child’s service providers if you have questions about whether these would be appropriate choices for your child.

Behavior & IEP Apps

Behavior Tracker Pro –$29.99 .  This app is great for parents who are trained in behavior analysis or who are needing data on behaviors to provide to service providers or an IEP team.  This program can record the duration and frequency of behaviors, record video of the behavior, and chart behaviors.


iReward –$4.99 .  iReward is one of my favorite behavior modification tools.  You can set up various behaviors that you want to see happen (for example, having a clean room, using the restroom unassisted, or tasting a vegetable).  You can use your device’s camera to take a picture that acts as a visual prompt for the behavior.  Then, you input how many times the behavior needs to occur in order to receive a reward.  Each behavior can be linked to a separate reward (which you can also have a picture of).  Using the clean room example, the child can see that he needs to have a clean room for 5 nights before earning a popcorn and movie night.  Each night, the parent and child check the room and if it’s clean, they tap a star (or smiley face or check mark) in the “clean room” goal page.  The child can see how many positive marks he has and how many he needs to gain in order to earn the reward.  This app is fabulous for teaching independence in goal setting as well!

Behavior Status –$0.99.  Most children who have gone to school are aware of a behavior modification method that involves a traffic light–green light means the behavior is good, yellow is “caution, behavior is getting out of control”, and red means the behavior is flat out unacceptable.  Behavior Status is a similar concept and really resonates with Jedi.  When his light is green, he knows that his behavior is under control, but when I turn his light to yellow or red (or ask him to for additional impact), it gives him a visual reminder that he needs to gain control of his body, his words, or his emotions.  Sometimes, being told to calm down doesn’t resonate–but a visual aid like a traffic light seems to work really well for him!


Time Timer –$1.99.  One of the tools we’ve used for Jedi since he was first diagnosed with autism at age 2 was a Visual Timer .  It allowed Jedi to have a big red visual aid to show him how long he had until we could switch tasks or until he could get something he wanted.  After several years of very hard use, the timer broke.  As Jedi gets older, it’s also just not practical to have the timer carried around with us everywhere he needs it to be.  So, having the exact same timer on his iPad is fantastic because it allows him to really see how long he has to go before something happens.  This helps him a lot with transitions (we’ve also been using it for the girls too, because they really love the red timer! 🙂  )   This is a great tool for simple things like letting the kids know how long they have left to work on a subject or how long they have before lunch!


Written Communication/Spelling/Dyslexia

Dragon Dictation –FREE .  This app is fantastic for those children who, like Jedi, have spelling and handwriting difficulties that make it difficult to complete creative writing or essay assignments.  With Dragon Dictation, Jedi can just speak to his iPad and it changes his verbal speech to written text.  It is not 100% accurate, but it definitely gives us a good place to start.


Pages –$9.99 .  Pages is Apple’s answer to Microsoft Word.  It can read and write Word documents, so it works really well when Jedi and I pass documents back and forth.  Obviously, this app is designed for productivity and not special needs.  I included it in my list because this is actually *the* most used app on Jedi’s iPad.  Because of his dyslexia, he needs to type most of his written work.  Pages includes a spell check, which helps Jedi self-correct without a lot of extra frustration.


iFontMaker –$6.99 .  iFontMaker is a pretty unique addition to Jedi’s therapeutic aids.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, one of Jedi’s dyslexia symptoms involves the inability to do handwriting, or at least the inability to do it at any level that is appropriate for his age.  He has been working very hard in occupational therapy for several years, and still has a lot of difficulty with it.  However, sometimes, there is just an extra bit of pride that comes from seeing something in your own handwriting.  iFontMaker allows Jedi to write each letter as best as he can one time, and the program turns it into a font.  That way, Jedi can use his own handwriting, while typing!  Obviously, this is not a “need”, but it is a really nice thing to have in order for him to be able to have work that looks like it was written in his own writing, while allowing him to use his typing accommodations.


I have a lot of other apps to share too, but many of them fall really nicely into the homeschooling category, so I’ll just include them with my next post.


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