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Technology and apps for kids with autism — a helpful guide for children with special needs.
Autism rates around the world continue to rise, and as more children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, more technology and apps for kids with autism is being developed to benefit people with autism. Advances in technology have provided creators and manufacturers with the means to bring interesting and helpful products to the market for those with autism.
Below are a few technology and apps for kids with autism that may be of interest to parents who are looking for ways to positively impact the lives of their kids with special needs.
Brain Power has developed an amazing way to promote understanding and social integration for those in the autism community. By embracing state of the art neurotechnology, Empowered Brain™ provides an augmented reality experience.
The person with autism wears light, computerized glasses and receives digital coaching. The wearer gets help in understanding facial expressions and social cues. S/he earns points and gets rewards for learning social-emotional skills.
Brain Power’s mission is to help empower power those with invisible neural challenges. They want to assist teachers and parents in motivating students with autism to learn more about social interactions, facial expressions, language, self-control, and job skills.
The Empowered Brain™ augmented reality system is designed to help the wearer see and hear the world in a different way through the computer screen while increasing engagement with others.
Dr. Ned Sahin founded Brain Power in 2013. He is a neuroscientist and neurotechnology entrepreneur. Empowered Brain™ began helping students with autism at schools in Massachusetts and should quickly be spreading across the country. The website (in the Pricing menu) helps parents with creative ways to purchase Empowered Brain™.
Tombot is a company that has created robotic animals that can transform the lives of individuals facing health challenges including autism. “Jennie” is a dog that is designed to have real puppy sounds and movements. The interactive sensors allow her to react to touch.
Voice activation software allows Jennie to react to commands. An overnight battery charge allows Jennie to function all day. Tombot comes with a free app as well that allows you to name your puppy and customize functionality.
Jennie the robotic dog can help individuals with autism reduce stress and anxiety and combat loneliness. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop was selected by Tombot to provide the artistic design for their robots. Creature Shop brought Tombot’s puppies to life with expressions, behaviors, and quality.
Co-founders Tom Stevens, Hank Schorz, and Jesse Schorz embarked on a mission to serve people facing neurological and other health challenges after Tom’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Tombot is a truly unique way to help kids and adults with autism.
Neuromotion Labs has created a program called Mightier. Not solely for kids with autism, Mightier was developed to help with identifying and managing emotions – something children with autism have a difficult time doing.
Mightier comes as a kit: it includes the app, a heart rate monitor, an android tablet, a library of games, support, and access to a private community of Mightier parents.
It works by making emotions visible and reinforcing the connection between heart rate and emotions. In challenging moments of the game(s), Dr. Dragon appears to help your child with some self-calming techniques.
Basically, Mightier uses bio-responsive technology. By learning to recognize when their emotions are escalating, kids can be coached and learn to bring their heart rate down.
This can lead to a greater ability to self-regulate. As the user/player faces increasing challenges in the game(s) and manages those challenges and corresponding emotions, the player learns stress modulation and self-control. Learning these skills leads to a better mind-body connection, which leads to a calmer individual.
Co-founders Jason Kahn, PhD., and Craig Lund, Trevor Stricker, and Andy Palmer paired clinically validated strategies and video games to mimic challenges found in everyday life. This allows kids to practice emotional regulation skills in a fun way.
Mightier’s program was developed and tested at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Three studies over seven years have shown that users have improved their behavior and lowered their stress.
Floreo is a learning app that uses virtual reality to deliver lessons that build communication and joint-attention skills. VR empowers a child to have some control over the world when in the “real world” they do not. The shared experience uses mobile VR to deliver lessons while a coach (adult) follows along on a separate iOS device. The coach pairs the devices through the app and directs the entire experience while receiving a streamed view in real time.
Vijay Ravindran and Monica Osgood developed the tech tool and founded Floreo after Ravindran, a parent to a child on the autism spectrum, saw his own son’s response to virtual reality. Anxiety decreased while confidence increased.
There is a police safety module among the activities which teaches police interaction in a non-threatening way. Floreo is science-backed with partnerships with leading research and academic organizations such as Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Celebrate the Children.
Wizard Watch, though not exclusively for special needs individuals, is a Smartwatch that is cellular, GPS, and WiFi enabled. It is designed to promote a safe environment for your child through the ability to locate, monitor, and contact your child.
The Wizard Watch has live GPS tracking, GEO fencing, voice and text messaging, two-way calling, and Take Me Home mapping. You’ll be able to pinpoint your child’s location, create safe and “stay away” zones, reach him/her through text or calls, and set up step-by-step mapping. This Smartwatch also provides SOS alerts so your child can easily alert you in case of an emergency.
Meant for children ages 3-13, the Wizard Watch Phone can be used by children with special needs according to their individual capabilities. There is also a schedule (reminder) function and an approved caller list.
For people who seek a more grown-up version of this product, the Phoenix Watch provides all the same functions with an additional Alexa Assist feature. Colorful, lightweight, and sensory-friendly, the Wizard Watch may be an appropriate and helpful piece of technology for your special needs child.
Smart Monitor launched SmartWatch Inspyre™ for the Apple Watch in 2018. This new application uses an algorithm to recognize a wearer’s repetitive shaking movements that may indicate a convulsive seizure is occurring. The app sends alerts to family members and/or caregivers.
The app can also collect data and store it in a secure, HIPAA-compliant cloud for analysis. Backed by both the Epilepsy Foundation and the Epilepsy Therapy Project Initiative, Smart Monitor has been supported in clinical studies. (It’s important to know that absence and partial seizures are not detected by this device).
Another detection device for convulsive seizures is the Embrace2 by Empatica. Embrace2 is the only FDA-cleared wrist-worn device for seizure detection in people age 6 and up. It is light, waterproof, and discreet. The sensors measure electrodermal activity and temperature.
Embrace2 communicates with a companion app when it detects tonic-clonic shaking lasting longer than 20 seconds. https://www.empatica.com/en-eu/embrace2/
Technology has provided entrepreneurs with the means to bring interesting and useful products to the market for those with autism. Before dismissing a tech product or app as too difficult for their kids with autism, parents should consider the needs of their child and search for technology that meets those needs.
It’s out there. And once you explore all the cool and innovative devices and apps made for those with autism, you just might find one perfect for your child.
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Keri is a special needs parent and a veteran high school English and journalism teacher turned writer. She enjoys reading, hiking, gardening, cooking, traveling, wine tasting, and practicing yoga. Both she and her son love to create art. She has a passion for educating people on all things autism. Visit her blog at https://kerimehome.com.View All Posts