Apps to Help Develop Social Skills for Kids with Special Needs
By Tracey Dowdy
Parenting a child with special needs is a beautiful combination of challenge and reward. One particular challenge can be the development of social skills. Learning to read facial expressions and learning appropriate ways to deal with emotions is often difficult and can leave a child feeling frustrated or misunderstood.
These apps can help young children who struggle with social skills improve their ability to read social cues and help family members and care-givers reinforce what the child has already learned.
Autism Apps is an extensive list of apps focused on meeting the needs of children with autism, Down syndrome, and other special needs. There are a multitude of apps available in the app store but sorting through to find the one that meets your needs can be a challenge. Autism Apps is divided into 30 categories such as Communication, ABA, Assessments, and Rewards Systems to simplify your search. Recommended by parenting.com as a top app for individuals with special needs, the app also includes reviews from parents and other users so you get first hand perspective on each app.
My PlayHome is a virtual doll house with 15 different dolls of different ages and ethnicities to choose from. Characters interact with each other as they go through their day – dress, eat, play, and sleep – and parents can use the multi-touch feature to join in and play with their child. Children learn to share, wait their turn, and other important social skills as they play, and improve communication skills by answering “who, what, where” questions.
Platform: iOS, Android
Avokiddo Emotions uses four animals – a shy sheep, zany zebra, jolly giraffe, and a modest moose – to teach kids how to read body language along with emotion. Kids can make the animals laugh, cry, jump when startled, or sag when sad. They can dress the animals in costumes and send them to fiestas or the zoo, but more importantly, they can begin to see the connection between their actions and the animals’ emotional responses.
Feel Electric! is from the makers of the PBS Kids show “The Electric Company” and builds users’ emotional vocabulary. Going beyond simple “happy” or “sad”, Feel Electric helps children understand and be able to express more complex emotions like stress, anxiety, pride, or excitement by using games, a digital diary and a story maker. Users can use music and video from the Electric Company library or choose their own to customize the app.
ConversationBuilder is designed to help kids move through conversations with their peers in a variety of settings from the classroom to a restaurant. With 160 conversations to choose from, students can practice how to introduce themselves, when it’s appropriate to ask questions, change the subject and how to exit the conversation in both groups and one-on-one. Conversations can be customized and archived to review with teachers or therapists. One of the most important features of the app is its adaptability for students who are non-verbal, have limited motor skills, or are blind.
Zones of Regulation
Zones of Regulation is designed specifically to help individuals who struggle to manage emotional and social control. Through the game, students face a variety of social situations and are asked to identify their emotions. As the game progresses, students are challenged and presented with behavior options with common real-life consequences for those behavior choices. Students learn ways to manage self-regulation and increase self-control.
Platform: iOS, Android, Kindle Fire
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.