There’s an app for that – Really?

If you watch any TV at all, you’ve seen the Apple commercials and their tagline “There’s an app for that”. Apple has even trademarked that phrase. It seems like there is an app for just about everything you can think of and for many things you’d care not to (there are 874 “fart” apps). But when I speak with with parents and professionals working with children with autism and learning challenges, the more common phrase I hear is “There is no app for that”.

In reality, there are some good apps available for these children, and very shortly Brain Parade will add some outstanding apps to that mix. There are also many apps that are not specifically designed for special needs children, but are an excellent fit for them nonetheless. There is also a lot of junk out there. To complicate matters, there is no “Special Education” or “Special Needs” category in the iTunes store so finding these apps takes some sleuthing. Here’s a few recommendations for finding apps in the iTunes store:

Search – Type a search term in the “Search Store” box in upper right hand corner of iTunes. Try terms like “autism” “special education” “ABA” or the specific type of app you are looking for like “sequencing”. You’ll get a list of songs, movies, books, as well as apps that correspond to your results. Just scroll down the list or click on the word “apps” on the left of the page to only show apps that meet your search criteria.

Browse by category – Before an app can be made available in iTunes its developer must categorize it according to one of the pre-defined categories Apple has listed. Click on the “App Store” button in the top center of the iTunes screen and you’ll see the list of categories. Every app must belong to one and only one of these categories. Choose your category from the drop-down list. Selecting “Education” for example will show you the many thousands of apps that are categorized as “Education” and you can browse through them.

Featured, Most Popular, New & Noteworthy, What’s Hot, Staff Picks, etc. – Whether you’re in iTunes or viewing the App store on your iPad/iPhone/iPod, Apple has highlighted some apps that they think you might be interested in. If you are looking for a cool new game or tool, this could be a good place to find it. You’ll see what everyone else is downloading. Unfortunately, if you are looking for a more specialized app like one for your special needs child, it isn’t likely to show up on these lists because there aren’t enough copies being downloaded to move them to the top of the charts. Still, it’s a good idea to take a look here occasionally because you will find some really neat apps.

Learn from others – There are quite a few websites, blogs, Facebook groups and pages, and Twitterers who mention or review apps for special needs children. I’ve mentioned a few in my prior blog posts and follow some others on Twitter. You can search Facebook for groups like Babies with iPads which discusses the use of iPads by infants and toddlers with disabilities to promote their development (they also have a blog). There are many other sources of information and I’ll continue to point them out in my future blog posts.

Now that you’ve found an app, how do you know if it’s worth downloading? In my next post I’ll offer a few hints on how to determine whether to download that app.

Please share your thoughts below and make sure to tell your friends about Brain Parade!

-Jim

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