Apps that Help Kids with Autism

A non-profit, Common Sense Graphite, has come up with what they think are the best apps for working with kids on the autism spectrum. Here is a categorized partial list based on highest rating:


  • Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings: Singing and role-playing conversations based on emotions. Covers not only words but facial expressions and body language.
  • Touch and Learn Emotions: Helps kids identify feelings such as excitement, sadness or anger. One drawback of the app is some of the images could identify more than one emotion which could be confusing.
  • Breathing Bubbles: Name “joys and anxieties” by creating sentences and putting them into bubbles, then “releasing worries” and “embracing joys.”
  • IF…The Emotional IQ game: An adventure game that “promotes wise decision-making and respect for others.”
  • Mood Meter—Building your Emotional Intelligence: Kids “explore a grid of emotions to describe their current mood.” It is expected for users to create much of their own text and images as built-in images and text are “limited.”

Language and Communication:

  • Proloquo2Go: Tool to help kids with speech difficulties communicate better. App needs to be customized to reflect kids’ current abilities and goals. Note: Cost is $220.
  • Language Builder Deluxe: Audio and visual tool to learn language. Kids must have interaction with an adult to evaluate their sentences as there is no feedback. Note: Cost is $10.
  • QuestionIt: Basic approach to teaching “question words and concepts” to kids experiencing language delays.

Social Skills:

  • The Social Express II: Interactive lessons “help students to cope with real life situations.” Free to download but subscription required.
  • Social Stories: Help for kids to write social stories such as “School Day,” “Home Day,” and “On the Bus.” Note: Cost is $7.
  • Conversation Builder: “Themed scripts” help kids to practice “successful social exchanges” including turn-taking, initiation and staying on topic. Note: Cost is $20

Summary: There are numerous apps that can help kids on the autism spectrum with emotions, communication, social skills and schedules (not included in this article). Cost is free to a few dollars unless otherwise noted. All the apps are available on Apple products (at least iPad) but only a few are available on Android. Most of the apps cover at least 4 grade levels—usually more.

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Chemical from Broccoli Sprouts Improved Behavior in Autistic Males

A study published in the October 2014 journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicated promise in easing social interaction and verbal problems as well as decreasing ritualistic, repetitive behaviors in moderate to severe autistic males who took a daily dose of sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is derived from broccoli sprouts.

The study was a joint effort between scientists at Mass General Hospital for Children and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Forty autistic males between the ages of 13 and 27 took part in the study. Before the start of the trial, the autism patients’ caregivers and physicians filled out three behavior assessments: The Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC), the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) and the Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement Scale (CGI-I). The assessments measure “sensory sensitivities, ability to relate to others, verbal communication skills, social interactions, and other behaviors related to autism.”

Twenty-six of the autism participants were randomly selected to receive 9 to 27 milligrams (based on participant weight) of sulforaphane daily and 14 participants received a placebo. Behavioral assessments were completed at 4, 10 and 18 weeks while the study participants continued to take the sulforaphane or the placebo. A final assessment was completed 4 weeks after the treatment ended.

After 18 weeks of treatment, the average score of those who received sulforaphane decreased 34% on the ABC and 17% on the SRS. According to the CGI-I scale, 46% of the sulforaphane recipients experienced noticeable improvements in social interaction, 54% improved in aberrant behaviors and 42% improved in verbal communication. The scores of the participants trended back to the original scores after stopping the sulforaphane.

One of the professors in the study, Paul Talalay, M.D., a professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences, and his research group have been researching sulforaphane for over 20 years. He cautions that sulforaphane precursors in “different varieties of broccoli are highly variable” and that the “capacity of individuals to convert these precursors to active sulforaphane also varies greatly.” He notes that it would be “very difficult to achieve the levels of sulforaphane used in the study by eating large amounts of broccoli or other cruciferous vegetables.”

The sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprouts extract has not been made into a commercial product; therefore, it is not readily available to those with autism. However, “broccoli sprouts and seeds rich in glucosinolates have been licensed by Johns Hopkins to Brassica Protection Products, LLC.” Antony Talalay, son of Dr. Talalay is CEO of the company.


Autism and Rudeness

As one on the autism spectrum for over 50 years, I have gotten into trouble for being “rude” my whole life. Rudeness is a social construct. “Social construct” is defined as “an idea or notion that appears to be natural and obvious to people who accept it but may not represent reality, so it remains largely an invention or artifice of a given society1.” If you are not born with social instincts, as is the case with people on the autism spectrum, what is “obvious” when it comes to rudeness, is not obvious to one with autism.

As one born in the early 1960’s, no one at that time in the US had the remotest clue what anyone on the autism spectrum–except maybe the severely autistic–was actually like. Nobody had a clue what to make of me. Don’t get me wrong, I was raised to be “polite” as in “please,” “thank you” and all that, but that does not mean I had a concept of what a “rude” statement was. I remember when as a child and adolescent, teachers and mothers of my “friends,” would get mad at me for, what to me, was no apparent reason. They assumed I knew what “rude” behavior was and I was behaving badly deliberately. Problem was, I was completely mystified.

As I got older, I started to figure out what “rude” was; but still to this day, I can’t escape from being called “tactless.” Another word for tactless is unsubtle. Yep, autistic people are unsubtle. What you see is what you get and we tell it like it is. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Plus, we have enough anxiety without having to walk around on eggshells hoping not to offend people. You say what you mean, while still trying to be nice, and that’s the best you can do.

If I would give one piece of advice to people who do not have autism about the concept of rudeness, it would be to understand that being “rude” is not such a horrible thing and not all rudeness is deliberately rude behavior. Take into account whether the person is just socially clumsy when you decide how to respond to someone you deem as rude. Additionally, remember that not everyone can finesse diplomacy, thoughtfulness, sensitivity etc. and you should think twice before you get all offended about what people say or do—whether they are on the autism spectrum or not.

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UPDATED:  January 27, 2018