Applications for High Functioning Autistic Children

Our first feature this week is written by Dad developer Kyle Tomson of Mobile Education Store. By sharing his story about how he started developing apps for the iPhone and iPad, we see how much is possible when specific family needs are addressed with mobile technology, innovation, and dedication.

How I got started

My name is Kyle Tomson, and I got into the iPhone developing about 18 months ago to help my daughter Caitlyn.   She is on the autism spectrum, but is very high functioning.  Almost 100% of her deficits are centered around language.  She is about 3.5 years behind her peers in expressive language.  When I started, the primary deficit we wanted to address was her inability to put together a grammatically correct sentence.  She could get the ideas out, but all the words were mixed up and she did not use any of the connector words.   Her teacher and her aide were making little progress helping her in this regard, and the language education CD’s we were buying were very expensive and didn’t offer  a lot of content for your money.  We knew from her time at a private preschool that employed Smart Boards in the classroom that she was very intelligent, and she could learn very quickly, but only if the material was presented in a visual format.

When the iPhone and its app store became available, we knew it presented a perfect medium for us to supplement her education. However, after searching iTunes for applications for her, we found that all of the autism related programs were for either much younger kids or for much more severe cases of autism.  We couldn’t find anything that was geared for language on high functioning spectrum kids.  Thus the mobile education store was born.

An Application Designed For One Person

Sentence Builder was designed specifically for Caitlyn to teach her how to put together a grammatically correct sentence.  I spent a tremendous amount of time on encouragement animations (jumping dogs/dancing cows – that sort of thing).  They are what make the program fun for her to play, and what keep her engaged. Once she started playing, she made such dramatic improvement in her sentence formation that I decided to “throw it up” on iTunes.  I have been shocked at the number of SLP’s, teachers and parents from around the world who have contacted me telling me how much they like the program and how much it has helped their students/children.  It has been a truly humbling and unexpected experience.

Applications As Her Needs Change

My next two applications were inspired by Caitlyn’s needs as she grew.  I made Question Builder because as she started to use language more, she would more often than not echo questions back to her teachers rather than answering the questions.  As with Sentence Builder, within months of using Question Builder, this problem was completely arrested in the the classroom.  Now in the 2nd grade, Caitlyn is expected to do more creative writing, which she really struggles with.  My featured application this month, Story Builder, was designed to help her come up with her own creative ideas, rather than letting her pick the answer from a list.  Story Builder was made to address the core of her language deficits.  Already she has made great strides in her ability to build a creative narrative.

As her needs change, I will be developing more applications to bridge the gap between the verbal education she receives in the public education system, and the visual one that she needs.

My Passion

As I have gone through this journey, developing these applications has become a passion for me.  Seeing how much these applications have helped my own daughter and hearing stories from parents and teachers has really opened my eyes as to how much I can offer this community.  This has been the most gratifying thing I have ever done in my life, and I look forward to continuing my work for the foreseeable future.

11 Replies to “Applications for High Functioning Autistic Children”

  1. An SLP friend and I were trading app favorites yesterday, and she mentioned these first — she’s especially fond of StoryBuilder. Thank you for making such wonderful tools.

  2. @pragmaticmom – yes, by all means, repost. I’ve gotten approval from Kyle the developer. 🙂

    @shannon, thank you for the comment and for your support. We appreciate the interation at the site as it greatly encourages the developers.

  3. A big thanks to Kyle for developing these programs! I am in the research phase of getting a new phone that can run applications and my main focus is programs that will help my (higher functioning) autistic children. I am so grateful that people are putting these type of products out on the market!

  4. I absolutely LOVE Sentence Builder! What a terrific app! I’m an SLP and this is just such great tool for working on grammar/writing skills. The kids are thrilled about having a way to work on grammar that doesn’t get bogged down in their spelling and writing errors (And so am I!), and they LOVE the encouraging pop-up visual/audio reinforcements! The price is a tremendous DEAL. I encourage anyone who’s considering buying this app to do so IMMEDIATELY! I was ecstatic that I did. In fact, I immediately went back to the app store and bought Question Builder–Another amazing and affordable tool. Less than a week later, I found Language Builder and purchased that as well. Yet another terrific app–and one that is really diverse in its application, as well. I’m using it not only to build descriptive language skills, but to get speech samples for everything from fluency to grammar to articulation carryover. With so many people trying to get their hands in the educational-app pot–this is one that is incredibly well-thought out, easy to use, and beyond reasonably priced! Now that I know your inspiration, it makes sense that you’ve created such valuable and immensely usable tools. Thank you so much!

    Please keep them coming! 🙂


  5. One last note on the apps that I’ve mentioned above: I have been using these with children both on and off the spectrum–My 4th graders love it! And the multiple levels makes it work for a wide range of ages! You are not likely to find many apps that are so diverse, adaptable, and affordable.

  6. Have you guys tried ABAbasic and ABApref? They are for running table top trials and preference assessments. They make it really easy. To be honest I hated the first version but they fixed it and ABAbasic is way better

  7. Hi, I have just found out my 10 year old had High Functioning Autism, are these apps suitable for him? Or are they more suited to the younger age group? Any advice would be appreciated!

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