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Jessica Parnell
BY Jessica Parnell

4 Ways Apps Can Help Children with Special Needs

There’s a raging debate centered around technology use and handhelds for kids. Are they good, bad, or downright ugly? The answer is all three, of course! Too much screen time has been proven to cause learning delays, attention deficits, and social struggles (not to mention headaches). But our children belong to the iPad and Internet nation, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.

Most parents worry about how kids are glued to their phones or iPads and wonder about the long-term effects. But if you’re a parent of a child with special needs, you certainly don’t need one more thing to worry about! The good news is that studies have shown the vast benefits of online and app programs for kids with special needs. In fact, online learning and apps can be amazing tools that teach those with disabilities social skills, self-directed play, critical thinking, communication, and more. Here are a few reasons why you should use some apps with your child with special needs—along with few of favorite apps to try.

1. Apps help kids with speech delays communicate with caregivers and express feelings, needs, desires, and more.

4 Ways Apps Can Help Children with Special NeedsOne major struggle in parenting a child with a speech or language delay is the inability to communicate wants, needs, and feelings. Apps can help students with communication delays by teaching speech and language skills or literally communicating for them. Communication solution apps like TalkTablet actually communicate for the user via text-to-speech voices and applications. These apps also encourage speech and language learning and growth through visual representation.

4 Ways Apps Can Help Children with Special NeedsApps like CoughDrop AAC employ the AAC method of speech and language therapy that works in conjunction with your child’s therapy and intervention services. The benefits of these apps are obvious: better understanding of needs and desires, increased learning ability, and better quality of life. If your child has a speech or language delay, communication apps can be your key to unlocking his or her inner voice.

2. Apps can teach life skills like schedules, organization, time management, and more.

Many kids who struggle with specific speech or learning delays simply cannot organize, retain, and process information effectively. Their brains don’t work that way, and this can be crippling for both academic and life skills. Take it from a parent of a child with severe ADHD and executive functioning delays: apps that address memory, organization, and sequential processing are wonderful tools. By offering help with daily schedules, routines, and multi-step directions, apps that focus on executive function and life skills are lifesavers for families.

While these apps are not going to transform your messy, disorganized child into a Type A clean freak, they can provide the support and tools your child will need to develop organization and reasoning habits that help at school, home, and the workplace. Give these a try:

4 Ways Apps Can Help Children with Special Needs 4 Ways Apps Can Help Children with Special Needs 4 Ways Apps Can Help Children with Special Needs 4 Ways Apps Can Help Children with Special Needs

• 30/30 is an app designed to track the amount of time spent on tasks. It help kids and adults follow schedules and stay focused.

• YouNote helps kids and adults learn how to take notes in many different ways, encouraging your child to find the way that works best for him or her.

• Use Google Calendar to remember appointments, meetings, and activities, or take it further with older kids to list due dates, tests, and project deadlines or create a time schedule to keep them on task. The alerts are super helpful to indicate when something is coming up or when it’s time to change to a new task.

• Last, but certainly not least, Memory Trainer is a fun game-oriented app that works on lasting memory and visual memory skills.

3. Apps can enable those with social delays to learn adaptive social skills and self-regulation.

We all know that social, emotional, and coping skills are critical if we want our children to develop friendships and lead healthy, fulfilling lives. But these skills are often like a foreign language to kids with autism or other behavioral or developmental delays. Also, for kids with sensory processing delays or struggles, emotional and physical regulation can impact every area of life. Apps can teach and reinforce emotional regulation, relationship understanding, and communication skills that give kids with special needs the tools they need to integrate and develop relationships with others.

4 Ways Apps Can Help Children with Special Needs4 Ways Apps Can Help Children with Special Needs 4 Ways Apps Can Help Children with Special Needs

• For young ones, Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings is an engaging app that teaches preschoolers how to identify, verbalize, and cope with feelings.

• Four Little Corners is a unique app that teaches kids about friendships and relationships through an interactive story platform.

• Breath, Think, Do with Sesame from Sesame Street teaches children to calm themselves down, cope with their feelings, and problem-solve.

4. Apps are fun and give caregivers a much-needed and deserved break!

While apps do so much to teach our children the skills they need to succeed, they also give us caregivers a much-needed break from the constant activity and support that comes with parenting a child with special needs. Rest is so precious for caregivers, and apps can be a wonderful way of working in 30 minutes to an hour of rest and recuperation each day for those weary moments. And the more regulated and rested we feel, the better we will parent, right?

There are so many apps available that can offer benefits for your child with special needs. But how do you choose? The key to finding the right app to support your child with special needs is to first identify what skills or concerns you would like to address with your child and go from there. Use comprehensive lists of apps from and, or posts from this Special Needs Resources blog. Take the time to find one app or several that will work for your child, and enjoy the benefits as you watch your children engage and blossom into the amazing, unique individuals they are meant to be!

Jessica Parnell

Written on July 28, 2017 by:

I’m Jessica Parnell — mom, homeschool evaluator, teacher, and president of Bridgeway Academy. In my 20+ years of experience as a homeschool mom and evaluator, I have had the privilege of meeting homeschoolers who take a variety of approaches to their education. It is their many stories and successes that inspire me in my own homeschooling, and I love to pass on the knowledge that I have gained from them to other homeschooling families. When I’m not writing or teaching my children, I like to ski, write, and participate in triathlons. I graduated from Kutztown University with a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Masters in English, and I am currently pursuing a degree in Neuroleadership. To explore homeschooling options or to talk with a homeschool specialist, call us today at 800-863-1474! We would love to share our expertise and ideas for more accommodations and modifications with this free resource.