Tech tools for autism: 6 tools you need to parent autistic kids

Here’s 6 essential tech tools for autism (well, apps for your phone) that makes life easier. Parenting isn’t an easy gig, but throw in a child on the spectrum and you’ll be super-charging your parenting tools.Technology can be a great support for parenting an autistic child and accessing the NDIS, from helping you stay organised, tracking, provide executive functioning, or supporting transitions.

Adobe Scan

I really couldn’t survive without an app that scans in documents. I frequently still get a paper form, report, or questionnaire from a teacher that needs to be converted to digital form. Annually, many therapists require signed updates to details via a paper form. If you are seeking a new diagnosis there will probably be paper surveys sent home. And there may be resources, drawings, reports or other materials shared in a therapy session that you want to store digitally so you don’t lose it.

Adobe Scan is a reliable app that creates clear digital scans of documents that can then be emailed or shared as a pdf. This makes multi-page douments much easier to transfer compared to taking photos.

Parental Control apps

If you have any technology like a Nintendo Switch, a smart watch like a Garmin vivofit jr, or internet connected device, parental controls are a must.

Autistic kids find transitions tricky, and don’t have a lot of self-control or management when gaming. So having parental controls for the Switch app means we can limit the time spent gaming, set a bedtime alarm, and track monthly usage of gaming. As adults, we can be the managers of digital use easily, and support transitions after gaming activities better.

If you use a smart watch or tracker watch, the parent app for that is also handy. You can check in on the steps/physical activity that your child is doing, and track their sleep for bedtimes, night waking, and sleep quality. This can help track patterns in sleep, to support you to develop a better sleep routine and schedule.

Visual Countdown Timer

The Visual Countdown Timer by Fehners Software is a free app. It provides different visual timers for kids that makes the passing of time visual and external. The timer uses visuals and sound to help kids manage their time. It was a life saver for managing transitions when the kids were younger. And it continues to be helpful for short periods of focus such as homework time. It’s one of the really versatile tech tools for autism support and executive functioning support.

More adult-like apps like the HIIT Interval Training Timer, can also be useful for managing time when the kids are older. While the timer is designed for exercise, it can also be used to:

  • break up gaming time, with periods of work (gaming) and rest (toilet breaks at regular intervals)
  • structure homework, with periods of focus and attention (work) and break times or rewards (rest)

An online timer like Online-Stopwatch can also be useful.

Note-taking

There are so many note taking apps, from a simple notepad to Color Note or Evernote.

There are many useful purposes for a note taking app.

  • For safe phone use for kids when waiting in line, in a waiting room, or waiting for dinner. Color Note allows you to select different colour backgrounds for the notes, add emojis, and use predictive text to write silly stories. This non-internet activity can entertain the kids while waiting in a safe/cyber-secure fashion that’s productive (not passively watching videos).
  • To record urgent message from the kids. Every day a kid will NEED something written down that’s absolutely essential to them. A fact they just read, a list of things they want to do, a high score or page number from a book. Maybe even an item for their wish list that they see in the shop. Many of these things are fleeting, so don’t actually need a permanent record. But adding it to a digital note pad reassures kids that they are being listened to, and it’s being documented.
  • For tracking behaviours. We have our phone constantly with us, so a note taking app makes tracking things easy. You might record sleep, meltdowns, toileting, food intake etc easily throughout the day. It’s also useful for making lists of things to talk to therapists about, so you don’t forget.

Special Interest apps <insert your tech tool here>

Special interests a.k.a. obsessive interests, are something many autistic kids share. Find an app that supports that interest and you’ll be in luck.

It might be:

  • a kid’s educational game about space for someone fascinated by space
  • an encyclopedia app or downloaded documentary or access to libby free e-books for someone who loves to read about their interest
  • an educational game that teaches maths or reading like duck, duck, moose, or prodigy
  • a drawing app that allows them to create digital masterpieces

The list really is endless, but having a digital and portable support to their obsessive interests can be useful when you’re in waiting rooms, need some alone time, or want to provide new educational skills for your child.

Music Player e.g. Spotify app

Meltdown approaching and need to distract and calm down? Play their favourite music.

Bored in the car and need to distract them so you can drive? Play their favourite music.

Can’t get them to go to sleep? Play their favourite calming sleep music.

You get the picture – playing familiar and comforting tunes can be great for personal calming.

So that’s 6 tech tools for autism support that can be really helpful when you need them. Of course, there are many more, and as needs change over time, different apps may be more useful.

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