Top Apps for Students with Special Needs

Technology in the classroom is on the rise, and has helped thousands of students accelerate learning through a variety of tools and applications. Within special education / inclusion classrooms, this can be especially true, as companies step up to the plate with a myriad of apps for special education to help these students optimize learning. Since we can’t list them all, we’ll provide a sampling of those that help special education teachers support their students—including top apps for students with disabilities and top apps for students with autism—as well as those with dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Students with Learning Disabilities

Common Sense Media is a great resource for teachers and parents of special needs children. They’ve created a Power Up Guide of well-designed apps that have been recommended and tested by field experts—covering categories that include communication, social interaction, organization, reading, mathematics and motor skills. Here are just a few:

  • Proloquo2Go – This is a communication app to help students with basic or severe speech challenges. By tapping buttons that represent words, students can string together whole sentences.
  • Bob Books #1 – Reading Magic – This is an interactive book in which students drag letters to the correct place below a picture as the letters and words are pronounced.
  • Jake’s Never Land Pirate School –This is a mathematics app in which students practice tracking shapes, counting and following directions through pirate games.
  • iWriteWords – This is a handwriting game that helps students practice writing letters, numbers up to 20 and simple words.

Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder includes a range of disorders characterized by varying degrees of difficulty with social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communications, and repetitive behavior. Autism Speaks has compiled a list of apps that provide support for students who struggle with such issues. Here are just a few that have top ratings:

  • A BuZoo Story supports first steps to inclusive learning and better self-directed communication.
  • Able Jr AAC is an augmentative and alternative communication app that’s specifically designed for toddlers and preschoolers with delayed speech or severe speech disorders.
  • AutiPlan Pictoplanner supports students who need more structure and overview in daily activities, using clear pictograms and text with drag and drop functionality.
  • Bag Game is designed for team play and teaches students to take turns and ask questions while providing them with theory of mind development, verbal development and visual memory skills.

Students with Dyslexia

Dyslexia is at the root of learning disabilities for many students who often experience difficulty with organizational skills that support effective studying. One such student with dyslexia says she has found the following organizational apps especially helpful:

  • iStudiez Pro helps students, teachers and parents stay on track by scheduling exam appointments and giving deadline reminders.
  • Next Thing is a task manager that’s designed to help with scheduling and maintaining focus on specific tasks.
  • Corkulous acts as a giant bulletin board that allows students to collect, organize and share ideas.
  • Flashcards Deluxe has customizable flashcards with up to five sides that can be tailored according to each student’s needs.

Students with AD(H)D

Since AD(H)D involves some combination of the inability to focus, hyperactivity and poor behavioral control, these iPad apps are especially suited to support students who struggle with such issues.

  • First Then Visual Schedule is an app that helps to provide positive behavioral support for students who would benefit from a structured environment.
  • iThoughts helps students see the big picture and focus on many ideas at once.
  • MyHomework helps students who have trouble concentrating focus on the next needed task.
  • iOS Guided Access is a functionality within iOS operating systems that helps students with attention and sensory challenges stay on task.

Apple devices in particular are uniquely equipped to help students with special needs break down barriers to learning. In fact, the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) has created a guide, “Using Apple Technology to Support Learning for Students with Sensory and Learning Disabilities”. This includes a description of Apple technologies for students with disabilities in mathematics, reading and writing, processing and organization, and sensory functions, as well as examples of success stories.

As a special education teacher, you face many challenges, and make a tremendous difference in the lives of the students who need you. With technology tools such as those outlined here, as well as other special education resources, you’ll be well-equipped to help your students with skill, compassion, and support to give them the optimized learning they deserve.