Helping Autistic Children Speak With Apps

Helping Autistic Children Speak With Apps

A new app for autistic children points to the growing role mobile technology plays in education and highlights its potential to encourage meaningful communication.

Aeir Talk, the brainchild of Joe Hill, the father of two autistic sons, is an app aimed at building language skills. Aeir Talk allows parents or teachers to upload their own flashcard images and record their voice saying words and phrases, helping autistic children feel comfortable by associating familiar voices and pictures.

In addition to building vocabulary, the app helps children communicate. Breaking down often complicated sentence construction, the app lets the children choose pictures of subjects and verbs and the app will build a simple sentence they can play to talk to people. Doctors say the app can also help recovering stroke victims re-learn words, faces and names.

Research shows mobile technology, particularly educational apps on tablets, helps autistic children learn language and communicate. Tablet use is growing in therapeutic and educational settings, and a slew of apps targeted towards children along the autism spectrum prompted The New York Times and education blogs to curate lists of approved apps. Aeir Talk is already receiving kudos from some of these blogs.

Autistic children often spend large amounts of time in front of computers or touchscreens, but on average they do not engage in as many social interactions online as other children, choosing to watch videos or play games instead. Some of the apps for autistic children put a spin on their enthusiasm for gaming, building collaborative games meant to spark social interaction without putting the children off.

Aeir Talk is more of a tool than a game, but it may also increase socialization. Its customization feature helps children familiarize themselves with the people around them, as parents can upload pictures and details about family members and friends, and the sentence-builder could encourage children to communicate more often. Many children on the autism spectrum face social anxiety challenges, and the app’s focus on showcasing familiar voices and images intends to ease anxiety about interacting.

Aeir Talk is available for the iPad, and is a learning tool for children of all ages and abilities, although it was designed with autism in mind. It is likely only the beginning for educational apps, as the potential benefits of mobile technology for learning continues to grow.

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