Tag Archives: special needs

Web-Based Resources for Special Needs Kids

By Tracey Dowdy

Being a parent is arguably the hardest job you’ll ever have. If you are the parent or caregiver for a child with special needs, you often face challenges beyond that of other parents, though you are equally passionate about your child’s success.

You’re on the clock 24 hours a day, so it’s important to have resources that are available at any time. Navigating everything out there on the Internet can be overwhelming but these websites can offer plenty of support.

Possibilities: Caring for a child with special needs may present significant financial challenges. The Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER) Center and the National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE®) have worked together to create parent centers across the country to provide critical financial resources for parents and caregivers of children from birth to 26 years of age and help with understanding rights and responsibilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Doodle: If you need to coordinate a meeting with your child’s occupational therapist, speech therapist, or teacher, then you know how long that email chain can get. Doodle takes the often frustrating task of group scheduling and streamlines it for you. Select the times you’re available, add your email address and the email addresses of the individuals you want to attend and Doodle will send you an overview of who is available for each date and time. Schedule the appointment and have it synced to your Google, iCal, Cloud or other calendar. Available online or as an app (iOS, Android).

PACER Center: For over 30 years, the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights has focused on parents helping parents, as well as providing support and resources for families with children and adolescents with disabilities, including assistance and advice for early intervention and advocacy. They offer workshops, publications and online resources, as well as assistance in transitioning adolescents into adulthood. They’re also an excellent resource for those looking to integrate assistive technology into their lives.

Zoho Invoice: Keeping track of your expenses connected to therapists, materials and interventions is vitally important for parents and caregivers. Materials and therapeutic resources can be costly but without documentation you could be out of pocket a significant amount of money at the end of the year. Zoho Invoice allows you to track and record your expenses, automatically send reminders and even send thank you notes.

Lotsa Helping Hands:  Sometimes we’re too busy to ask for help or assume others are too busy, and sometimes others assume we’ve got it covered and don’t need help. Lotsa Helping Hands gives friends and family members a place to sign up for everything from babysitting to meal prep or even pick up from school or a ride to a doctor’s appointment. Volunteers get a reminder email so there’s no confusion and parents get the respite they often desperately need.

Family Resource Center on Disabilities provides training and support to families of children with disabilities. Caregivers have access to webinars and workshops on topics as varied as “Navigating the IEP Process” to “Skills for Parent Advocacy”, Volunteer Advocacy Programs and information on the Disability Pride Parade and much more. The website offers a Spanish translation as well.

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.

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

autism-appsAutism 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.

Platform: iOS

My PlayHome

my-playhomeMy 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
Cost: $3.99

Avokiddo Emotions

avokiddoAvokiddo 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.

Platform: iOS
Cost: $2.99


Feel Electric!

feel-electricFeel 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.

Platform: iOS
Cost: Free


conversation-builderConversationBuilder 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.

Platform: iOS
Cost: $19.99

Zones of Regulation

zones-of-regulationZones 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
Cost: $5.99

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.