A while ago I was contacted by an educator that was looking for good applications on the iPhone for their autistic child. They noticed that their autistic child will play with the games their other children play, but wondered at other applications that they could find for their child that would keep their interest.
Well, I have mentioned both iConverse and Proloquo2go before, and both are fantastic communication assistance tools, but that is just for communication. There are a number of other tools that can be just as useful for autistic children in learning how to read and write. Here are a few that I have found very useful:
Memory Pro (free): Memory games are fantastic because they focus on recall and memory retention. All children should work at memory games, and autistic children are no acception. The one drawback of this game is the attention required to play can be a bit much for an autistic child, or at least for my 4 year old.
First Words Sampler (free): My son loves this game! You are given some words and a picture, and need to match the letters to the letters in the word. You don't have to match them in the word order, because the word is spelled out and each letter is expanded while it is read, and then the word is read. This is perfect for autistic children because of the combination of auditory and visual interaction reinforce learning. My son sat literally still for an hour playing this game with the same 6 words over and over again. This is a winner by far.
iWriteWords Lite (free): iWriteWords app is a letter writing game. Here children follow the numbers to write the letter, with visual and auditory interaction at the end of the process. It's great for practicing writing letters, which my son does very well (surprising even his preschool teachers). He does get a little frustrated with the need to follow the numbers to create the word, instead of writing in his own way and direction. Still, he will play with this app through at least 4 words. It's a great app as far as I'm concerned.
I Hear Ewe (free): This app is great for picture and sound association, another skill important to learn for autistic children. My son doesn't spend a lot of time in this app, though my nephew, who is not autistic, loves it.
TT Shapes (free for now): This app was free when I downloaded it as a special offer, but will most likely become a $0.99 app soon. Basically, the child clicks on the shape they are asked to select. The shape to click on is both written out, and spoken, so they can learn the word and the sound of the word. But writing is auditory, as is the spoken word, so it may take a lot of hand-holding to play this game. My son will play it, but is more likely to select shapes in a pattern than any one specific shape requested. Still, it's a pretty nice game if you want to play with your child.
Hatch! (free): My son hasn't played this game yet, because I just found it today, but it looks really cool! Developed by a parent wishing to find some way to get their child to stay occupied at the grocery store, the app was born. Ideal for any toddler, they just tap the screen to get it to hatch, and a random friend is "born". It's a bit of fun that will keep them entertained, because the "friend" changes at each tap. I played with it for a good 10 minutes, and didn't see a repeat "friend".
So, those are the apps that I currently have chosen for my son. On top of this, I would like to mention that iConverse now has an option to set custom pictures and phrases which use an internal text to speech engine included with the app. Where I didn't think it was initially worth the $3.99 we paid for it (on special offer), I now think it's worth a lot more than the $9.99 at which it is currently listed. I would recommend iConverse for parents that want to set up a custom phrase list to augment speech learning, and use Proloquo2go if you need a fully fleshed-out communications suite.