parents with teen girl in wheelchair using computer

Autism Assistive Technology: Items of Interest

Many people find apps, smart devices, and other assistive technology a big help in managing autism—but there’s so much assistive tech out there, sometimes you have no idea where to start looking for the right item. Even where the tech is free, it takes time and battery power to get something new and see if it ever gets used (or if it’s still used after the newness wears off).

The best approach, of course, is to “test drive” an option before committing to it. For BridgingApps/Easter Seals Greater Houston clients, there’s an Assistive Technology Demonstration Lab where people can try out devices, get recommendations, and even borrow technology for test runs at home. Here’s a sampling of autism-related options, many available through the Lab and our partner Texas Technology Access Program at the University of Texas.

(Thanks to Anita Swanson of TTAP, also BridgingApps team members Daryn Ofczarzak and Amy Fuchs, for their suggestions.)

For people who struggle with executive function and self-regulation:

  • The Autism: Scheduling Apps List offers multiple recommendations for apps that organize tasks and routines.
  • The Balance Health app tracks blood pressure measurements according to individual healthcare needs.
  • The Calm app provides meditation guidance and includes sleep stories to reduce stress-related insomnia.
  • The Echo 2 Smartpen is for those who find that information—even their own thoughts—comes faster than they can consciously process it. The Smartpen records and replays meetings, notes, and lectures.
  • New Horizon is a YouTube channel of guided meditations and sleep stories.
  • The Therapeutic Listening App from Vital Links assists self-regulation through the use of electronic music, designed to stimulate attention-related and self-organizing capabilities in the nervous system.
  • The WatchMinder3, VibraLITE 3, and Cadex 12-Alarm watches are designed to help manage autism and ADHD by delivering “pay attention” and/or task reminders.
Therapist and child
Speech and Language Pathologist, Daryn, working with a client in the BridgingApps Assistive Technology Lab.

For people with motor-skills or sensory issues:

  • The Advantage2 Keyboard is ergonomically designed for maximum comfort and minimum strain on the hands and fingers. 
  • The BIGtrack 2 trackball uses an extra-large central ball and switch buttons.
  • theBoom is an over-the-ear headset with noise cancellation technology and in-ear speakers. 
  • The Evoluent VerticalMouse has a patented shape that supports the hand in an upright position for greater control without forearm twisting.
  • The iPad Voiceover/Switch controller connects to iOS devices to enable a variety of control options. 
  • The Roller II Joystick is designed for users who have difficulty using standard mouse devices.

For people with communications difficulties:

  • The AT-216 Personal FM System and the Comfort Audio Contego are designed for people with hearing disabilities, but they also incorporate technology that reduces the distractions of background noise.  
  • The Avaz AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) app is specially designed for users with autism. Features include different voices and languages; various size and appearance settings; customizable vocabulary folders; and access to the host device’s Pictures databases.
  • The PRC Accent 1400 is an AAC device that features a 14-inch screen and a variety of frames that can be personalized for individual users. 

And for families raising children with autism:

  • The Breathe, Think, Do app from Sesame Street teaches problem solving through scenarios featuring a cartoon monster.
  • GuessWhat? from Stanford University is a fun, educational charades game that also aids university research by letting users make videos to be reviewed for behavioral insights. (And if you just want to play the game together without sharing videos, that’s fine too.)

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