As an educator, I used to work with special needs children, and I’ve found digital tools to be quite effective in bridging the gap. This list, however, is a selection of apps designed for parents, teachers, and therapists to track child’s development, have a better understanding of his or her needs, and explore new ways to teach and help.
Cognoa is not strictly an app – it is a health care company assessing and supporting children’s development. However, they also have an app, which can be used as a free evaluation tool. If you have questions or doubts about your child’s development, you can fill out a questionnaire or take a short video showing your child’s natural behavior at home. Then, send this data for experts to analyze and provide you with feedback and recommendations. Although it still cannot replace a full-scale assessment, Cognoa has proved to be quite effective in diagnosing children as young as 13 months.
2. Baby Connect
This app serves as your child’s portfolio and profile page, but also is a valuable tracking and evaluation tool where you can mark your kid’s developmental milestones, mood, health, immunization, and care routines, such as nursing, feeds, naps – nearly every aspect of their life. You can also easily share this information with day care specialists, babysitters, and therapists in order to coordinate your actions. With the help of the graphs that app provides, you can recognize patterns and trends and compare them with the U.S. and International percentiles.
This is a flexible and easily customizable tool, designed for parents and educators to assist in creating various speech activities (practice conversations, narrative, social stories, articulation, and language exercises). With its help, you can create visual schedules for your children by choosing pictures (or taking your own photos) and adding a voice record to accompany them. The app’s text-to-speech feature can also provide alternative communication aid for children with limited verbal abilities.
This app is an AAC (Augmented and Alternative Communication) tool designed to give a voice for non-verbal people, as well as people with limited verbal abilities, or those who for any reason are unwilling to communicate in spoken language – a variety of individuals with different diagnosis and issues. Proloquo2Go offers a vast picture vocabulary and text-to-speech feature in multiple voices; it is also easily customizable. It is a great help for parents, educators, and therapists, but unfortunately, it is quite pricey.
If your special needs child uses their own electronic device, which is more advanced than simple emergency phones for kids, it is recommended that you use some kind of parental controls. Pumpic is one of such tools, which allows all-encompassing monitoring, starting from GPS-tracking of wandering kids, and ending with monitoring of text messages and online activities in order to prevent undesirable contacts with disturbing content and bullying. I should also mention that puberty brings additional concerns, and sometimes curiosity, sexual feelings, and technology can be a menacing mix, especially for children with special needs, who often are trusting and inexperienced in social interactions.
This is a behavior-tracking app for teachers to log behavior of their students in class, but it also can be used to track individual children day by day, month by month, in order to monitor skill acquisition and behavioral patterns, and simply work out what works for your kid and what does not. Based on your observations and the app’s reports, which are automatically graphed to simplify the analysis, you can make data-driven decisions and optimize learning processes for your children.
This visual schedule aims to provide a structured environment for children and adults with anxieties, ASD, acquired brain injuries, learning challenges, auditory processing disorders, and other special needs by giving them a visual representation of their day, an upcoming week, or month. Such aid is usually very beneficial for children, helping them to learn important skills, such as personal hygiene, through video modeling (a corresponding video can be linked to every event in the planner).
These apps allow parents, teachers, and caregivers to provide better care for special needs children, and assist them in overcoming cognitive and social challenges.
Featured photo credit: Alberto Zhase/Flickr via flickr.com