Complete guide to educational and special needs apps

With over 300,000 apps it's easy to become overwhelmed by the number of app choices. It's also easy to spend a small fortune on a lot of useless apps. As a special needs parent I wanted to get right to the "good stuff" and figured you did too. Check out our guide that breaks down the best of the apps by skill set so you can easily find and buy apps that most benefit your child. Great for kids with autism, ADHD, apraxia, learning disability, sensory issues and more. Included are apps for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch and some Android apps. Get started right now by clicking on a category. Contact me if you'd like to add your app to our list. Read on to learn How to pick great apps and What's on my iPad?

by Dawn Villarreal, One Place for Special Needs


Android apps (all)
Android does not have the nice interface of iTunes for viewing apps on the Internet as opposed to your device. Here are the ones I could find.

Aphasia apps
Apps specific to those with aphasia

Apraxia apps
Apps specific to those with Childhood Apraxia of Speech

Articulation apps
Apps that focus on articulation.

Assistive technology apps
Here are a variety of assistive technology apps employing voice recognition, text to speech, easy to use technology for impaired motor abilities.

Auditory memory apps
Auditory memory is the ability to remember what you heard. You'll find games here on recalling auditory information and following verbal directions.

iStock boy listeningAuditory discrimination apps
Children with auditory discrimination deficits misinterpret language sounds or process them slowly. These apps require you to analyze the sound you hear. Some are games and some are sound effects.

Auditory procesing apps (all)
This link takes you to all of the auditory processing related apps. Children with auditory processing deficits have difficulty understanding what words mean and may also show delayed langauge skills.

Autism apps
Apps specific to those on the autism spectrum

Behavior management apps
Teachers and therapists will find apps on data collection. Parents will find behavior and reward system charts to use with their child.

Choose your own adventure apps
These apps work on creative thinking and "what if" scenarios. You choose the path a character takes which changes the outcome of the story.

Code breaking apps
Code breaking games work on a variety of skills including pattern recognition, critical thinking and sustained attention.

iStock boy thinkingCognitive skills apps
You'll find tons of fun and challenging apps that work on a variety of cognitive thinking skills. The majority help develop critical thinking which involves logic and reasoning skills.

Communication device/AAC apps
You'll find a variety of communication devices from simple to complex and affordable to expensive.

Drawing board apps
Use these apps for free drawing or as a writing board.

Early learning apps
These are apps that work on numbers, alphabet, phonics, word categorization flash cards and more.

Educational apps
Here are the best of the educational apps iTunes has to offer. I picked apps that had high visual interest or had simplified concepts to accommodate different learners.

Executive functioning activity apps
These are more goal directed game apps that focus on following directions, sustaining focus and multi-step activities. Executive functioning deficits impact goal setting, problem solving and decision making.

Fine motor skills apps
These are games that require finger dexterity, a lot of swiping and hand eye coordination. Fine motor skills can apply to the small muscular movements of the hands, wrists and fingers.

Finger tapping apps
These are games that simply require finger tapping to play. Some are fast-paced reaction games while others are at your own pace.

Fitness apps
These were apps that had step by step visual instructions or videos to help with fitness goals.

Focusing game apps
Improve your mental focus and sustained attention with these fun game apps.

iStock handwritingHandwriting apps
A variety of apps that work on finger tracing in lower case, upper case and cursive.

Health apps
You'll find a variety of apps on diabetes management, first aid, gluten free management, heart rate and more.

Hidden object apps
Hidden object games work on visual figure ground, the ability to pick out details without getting confused by the background information.

Holiday apps
These are apps that work on various skills with a holiday theme.

iPad apps (all)
An exhaustive list of all available apps on our list.

iPhone apps (all)
An exhaustive list of all available apps on our list.

iPod Touch apps (all)
An exhaustive list of all available apps on our list.

Jigsaw puzzle apps
Jigsaw puzzles work on hand eye coordination and visual spatial sills. Here you'll find puzzles that are drag and drop as well as those you must actually place like a real puzzle.

Language skills apps
Here you'll find lots of apps that work on expressive and receptive language, pragmatic language and vocabulary building skills.

Matching game apps
Matching games can work on cognitive, fine motor and visual processing skills. You'll find many match three type games here too.

Math academic apps - Apps to support general math, algebra, counting money and more.

Math game apps
Practice math skills from basic math facts all the way to algebra.

Memory game apps
Find all auditory and visual memory games here.

Music apps
Here you'll find many music games and musical instruments that can be played by tapping on the instrument.

iStock girl detectiveMystery apps
A great way to build on cognitive skills is to solve mysteries. Here are the highly rated apps in this category.

Organization skills apps
Find many great apps that act as task managers for your child at school or for yourself.

Parenting apps
Here are a hodge podge of apps designed to make parenting a little easier. You'll find chore charts, countdown timers, internet safety apps, toilet training and more.

Physics game apps
Physics games are great problem solving games which introduces the laws of physics. These games involve pulleys, hinges, stacking and more.

Problem solving game apps
Here are the best of the problem solving games that work on critical thinking skills.

Reaction game apps
Working on speed? These are fast-paced games with items on conveyor belts, catching items and breakout type games.

Reading academic apps - Apps to support reading, Dolch sight words and more.

iStock boy scienceScience academic apps
Many interactive science apps to make learning fun.

Sensory processing apps
These are apps with high auditory or visual stimulation as well as apps that might help with sound sensitivity. Children with sensory processing disorder typically suffer from sensory defensiveness (hypersensitive) or sensory seeking behavior (hyposensitive).

Sequencing game apps
You'll find games like Simon, Connect the dots and make your own food (e.g. pizza, burger) that require a sequence of steps to complete.

Slider puzzle apps
Slider puzzles are challenging games that build on visual spatial skills, cognitive thinking and concentration.

Social skills apps
Children with social skills deficits can have difficulty understanding nonverbal communication, recognizing the feelings of others and knowing what to do in social situations. Here you'll find apps on understanding body language, emotions, eye contact and hidden social rules.

Social studies academic apps - Apps to support various social studies topics.

Sound effect apps
A collection of various sound effects. These can be used to help desensitize children who have fear of various noises by putting them in control of the noise.

Special needs specific apps
Here are apps that were designed for individuals with disabilities. These include learning American Sign Language or Braille for family members, life skills and many aphasia, apraxia and autism specific apps.

Speech skills apps
Here you'll find apps that work on articulation and speech intellgibiltiy.

Spot the differences apps
Spot the difference games are great at helping your chlid with visual discrimination, an important component to reading.

Strategy game apps
These are excellent games to work on your child's logic and decision-making skills.

Telling time apps
Here are several apps that help your child learn how to tell time.

Test your reflexes apps
Want to know how fast your reaction time is? Try one of these games.

Visual memory apps
These games will help your child remember what she's seen. Many are in the standard memory matching game style while others are more complex.

Visual motor skills apps
Plenty of visual motor (hand eye coordination) apps to choose from here!

iStock boy readingVisual procesing apps
Visual processing refers to our ability to recognize and interpret the information we see. Many visual processing skills are integral to reading. Here you'll find all the visual processing game apps including optical illusions and apps that work on eye teaming issues.

Visual spatial apps
Visual spatial skills is the ability to turn and rotate objects in our mind. These games are specific to that skill set.

Visual scanning apps
Visual scanning is our ability to scan a room, for instance, and find an object. These games work on scanning an area while playing.

Visual tracking apps
Visual tracking is an important skill for reading left to right and darting our eyes to various words on a page. These apps work on our visual tracking and scanning skills.

Word game apps
You'll find many word games here from word categorizations, word jumbles, dolch sight words and more.

Writing academic apps - Apps to support writing

Other resources

7 Things the iPhone has that the iPad doesn’t

9 Things the iPad has that the iPhone doesn’t

Accessing the iPad: Mouthsticks, Head Pointers and Styluses

Apple iPad, iPod Touch might help people with autism take steps toward independence

Apple's iPad Brings Easy Reading to the Blind

ATMac - Empowering Disabled Apple Users

iPad Assistive Technology/Disability Round-Up

iHelp for Special Needs

iPad opens new world for special needs children

Stories: iPad Users with Disabilities

Using the iPad when you can't pick it up

Dawn VillarrealAbout the writer

Dawn Villarreal runs One Place for Special Needs, a national disability resource that lets you find local and online resources, events and even other families in your neighborhood plus thousands of online disability resources! Stay awhile and check out the site. She is also moderator of Autism Community Connection, a Yahoo group for families of children with autism spectrum disorder. Reprint permission granted by including: Reprinted with permission from One Place for Special Needs