Apps for the ipad

LAST UPDATED: 11/12/13

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The ipad has caused a mini revolution in the world of special needs. There are many other excellent communication and learning aids available, some specially-made for purpose, others using touch screen tablet PC computers.

The ipad, however, has got some new and exciting features that makes it a really different option for many people with special needs.

Before you rush out and spend hundreds of pounds, it is worth getting an assessment of the communication needs of the person you support. Your local speech and language therapy team should be able to advise you on how to go about getting an assessment, or you can contact an AAC assessment team direct. AAC teams

A big Netbuddy thank you to Marion Stanton of for putting this information pack together for us.


Apps review

submitted on 12/2/2013

The Friendship Circle have produced a searchable and categorised review of special needs apps.  Well worth checking out!

Disabling the home button

submitted on 13/11/2012 by Karen

If you download IOS 6 on your iPad (2 or above) you can disable the home button so that whatever app is running can't be switched off until you enter a password.  You can also disable bits of the screen (eg in-app purchases...)

Get to it via settings - general - accessibility - guided access.  Triple click the home button in the app and it takes you to a screen where you set how you want it to be.  Triple click the home button to enter your password to unset it.

Very useful for those who spend 2 seconds in an app, hit the home button, open something else, hit the home button etc! 


Don't assume the most expensive apps are the best. There are some great apps that are less than £5 or even free.

Try before you buy

If possible have a look at the app before you buy it. Communication aid centres are likely to have a range of apps that you can look at before you buy.

Keep up to date

Keep up with the latest app development. will be continuously updating ipad information in the AAC self assessment toolkit.  Plus, there are more links to blogs and information sites further on in this pack.


Switches are buttons that connect to the ipad so you can control what happens on the screen. A very few apps are switch accessible. Find out more at: Four communication apps that are switch accessible are TapSpeak Choice, TapSpeak Button, Proloquo2go and Predicatable.

Head pointers

Not everyone can use their hands or fingers accurately to point on the screen. You can find conductive head pointers at:

ipad covers

You might want to cover your device to waterproof it and/or make it more durable. Screen protectors are a good idea. 

Mounting options

If you need to mount an ipad for wheelchair or desktop use, here some options: 

Apps for Communication

Model Me Going Places

This app is a great visual teaching tool for helping your child learn to navigate challenging locations in the community. Each location contains a photo slideshow of children modelling appropriate behaviour.

My Day with WH Words


This app includes a social story about talking about one’s day, and a visual support that asks different “WH” questions.


The TapSpeak series

There are three apps in this series. TapSpeak Choice allows you to make pages for communication. TapSpeak Sequence is for timetabling and other sequencing and TapSpeak Button is a single button that you record a single message one. You can store your single messages for retrieval as often as you like. TapSpeak uses Meyer Johnson Picture Communication symbols.



This is editable communication software, which can be adjusted to suit a wide variety of users and has a word prediction system attached to the iPad keyboard.



This is a useful app for the literate person who uses AAC and who likes social networking. For example, you can update your Facebook status straight from Predictable.



TouchChat has a number of different choices of vocabulary within it, including a version of the well-known Word Power.

There are numerous basic and economical communication apps, including: iMean, iCommTikiNotesAutoVerbalAlexicom AAC, Tap To TalkPics Aloud, Locabulary, Speak it!,  iConverse and iCommunicate.

A very simple and effective app is ANSWERS:YesNo. It is easy to access and there are two more buttons that you can edit to provide your own set of two choices. It also has a fun cartoon voice, which young people might like.

Apps to support learning

There are too many apps for learning to be able to give even a representation sample here. This is a very small selection:

World Jigsaw


This app lets you choose features from around the world, such as animals or places and creates an on-screen jigsaw puzzle for you to complete. You can then read information about the feature.



This is an app for reading books out loud and highlighting the words.

Dragon Dictation


This app will record your voice and turn it into print. Useful for people who have a clear voice but find spelling difficult.

Talking Tom


Tom copies your words and sounds and plays them back to you in a playful voice. You can also give him drinks of milk, stroke him to make him purr and tread on his tail to make him MEEEOW. Great for encouraging vocalisation.

iMindMap Pro


Mind mapping app to help you organise your thoughts.

Sensory Apps

These are apps that attract attention using movement and sound and which require no more than random pointing to activate. Great to develop cause and effect skills. Here are a few of the man sensory apps available.

Pocket Pond


This app recreates the sounds and sights of pond life on touch. You can add lily pads and move them about.



Creates simulated firework displays on touch, which can be saved and replayed.

Spawn Lite


A light show that you can control with your finger point.



A light show with sounds that you can control with a finger point.



An app that has the appearance of water moving to the finger tip with soothing music in the background.

Koi Pond


This is a water feature app that enables you to design your own underwater scene and then run your finger through the virtual water to create interaction.

Bubble Popper


This is a replica of bubble wrap with the same satisfying sound when you press the virtual bubbles.


There are many thousands of apps for games, but some of the ones we particularly like are:

Angry Birds


A virtual catapult flings angry birds at a structure to pass the level.


Make words of three or more letters in three minutes.


A virtual version of this classic game.

Tap Zoo

Gain points by feeding animals and clearing rubbish.

Fantasy Ocean


This game involves placing fish in your ocean and gaining points by harvesting them. Lots of nice visuals as well as sounds.

Frog Toss


Very like virtual tiddlywinks. You pull back on the frog to make it jump onto lily pads.

Blogs & useful sites

Here are some useful blogs and information sites you might want to look at:


Education apps

Sensory apps


Your recommendations

Iasku PECS app

submitted on 8/1/2013

My son's speech therapist and psychologist have developed a communication app based on PECs sentence strip called Iasku . Its fantastic and so easy to use.  Son had it cracked within mins and it only costs £2.99

Liberator Unity for the iPad

Unity® Core apps are ideal for beginning communicators who are just learning that they can affect those around them. Free live e-training is available for both the free lite version and paid for full version app.

Talking Ginger

submitted on 14/10/2012 by J M Worgan

I found an app called 'Talking Ginger' which has really helped my son with ASD brush his teeth. It features a cat in the bathroom who repeats what you say. He brushes his teeth for two minutes, there is a progress bar at the bottom and it plays music. Well worth checking out!

Dragon Naturally Speaking

submitted on 9/10/2012 by Chris (Adaptive Technology Specialist)

There is now a Dragon Naturally Speaking app available on the iPad which allows a person to give commands and create written work on a computer by speaking to it.

Scene and Heard

submitted on 27/6/2012

Scene & Heard is a multimedia scene communication tool based on the visual scene display AAC approach. It supports communication and provides context. Clickable hotspots play pre-recorded messages and scenes can incorporate Widgit symbols with audio.

Scene & Heard also enables class activities such as storyboarding, interactive story telling and presentations. Scenes may also be used for task prompting, reminding and task demonstration.  A lite version to create 1 scene is available for free.


submitted on 25/1/2012

A new educational app to aid choice and communication using Makaton® symbols, signs and video:

Aeir Talk

submitted on 5/1/2012

Aeir Talk, created by a father with two sons with autism, is a very flexible communication aid.  It allows you to add your own photographs and record your voice to create personalised flashcards and build sentences

Speech tutor app

submitted on 22/12/2011

I highly recommended Speech Tutor by Synnapse Apps for the older child.

iballz case

submitted on 19/12/2011 by Liane Jones

Check out iballz for the ipad - when in use if dropped the ipad bounces and should not break!

Drool resistent case

submitted on 27/11/2011

The Griffin GB02480 Survivor Military Duty Case with Stand for iPad 2 (now £32 on amazon) has built in screen protector which should stop any liquid seepage.

So for anyone who drools I would suggest getting the Griffin case!

App to search Autism Apps

submitted on 8/11/2011 by Teresa Kahn

I've just discovered a useful app for ipod/ipad/iphone. It's called Autism Apps and lists apps that have been helpful for people with autism by category, and links to the app in the app store. You can also recommend apps. A really good idea, and saves lots of time spent trawling through the thousands of apps available. I found some good new ones for my daughter's ipad.

Apraxia apps

submitted on 22/12/2011

Apps for apraxia and other SN: A webinar handout with list of suitable apps

Flo Longhorn’s apps

submitted on 22/9/2011 by Flo Longhorn

Flo Longhorn is a consultant in special and multi sensory education and has put together a document of sensory based apps for students with SLD
Flo Longhorn's apps 1 (Jan 11) (808.2 KB)
Flo Longhorn's apps 2 (June 11) (797.1 KB)

Down's syndrome Association guide

submitted by Down's Syndrome Association

Have a look at the Down Syndrome Association of Queensland's Guide to Apps: Guide

'Voice' articles

submitted by Down's Syndrome Association

Here are two useful articles in the Down's Syndrome Association of Queensland magazine, 'Voice': There's an App for thatVoice

Conversation Builder

submitted by Jan Steck Huffman

I love Conversation Builder app from icommunication

Talking apps

submitted on 31/5/2011 by Annie Race

We use basic apps, like Talking Gina (giraffe), Talking Tom (cat), Talking Ben (dog). All free! When you make sound they record it and say it back to you. They also move when you touch them.  For us, it's amazing to see James' interest as he has even made some sounds to Gina, and he's non verbal! It's a great guaranteed reaction every time. :-)


submitted on 31/5/2011 by Emma Tucker

There's a free app for baby tv called tullishapes. This is a v good, easy shape sorting game. Though really you just have to tap the shapes and they move into the correct place in the picture automatically.

Holiday essential

submitted on 31/5/2011 by Alessandra Bester

Going on holiday with your special needs child requires planning, coordinating and, for me, an iPad is essential. It lets me upload Postmen Pat episodes from ITunes, get loads of free apps – from piano, guitar, to sensory, books and interactive animation, colouring-in apps, jigsaws .... and lots of photos and visuals to build social stories on the go. Prolonqu2go loaded with new words associated with the travel...  when your child gets overloaded there is music and headphones to calm them down and few films for yourself when they're asleep.

Pictello Stories

submitted on 8/6/2011 by Peta Perrie

Pictello stories are great for short social stories. My daughter won't sit still long enough for a book. When we tried this with her photos and my voice she can't get enough.


submitted on 13/6/2011 by Annie Race

'Pages' is a great way to record lots of lovely things, & it's so easy to do as well. It costs £5.99,  but it's worth it. There are templates you can use or start from scratch. You can add photos, words, shapes etc. You can also email what you have created or send straight from the iPad to a wireless printer. Here's one of the pages we do for our children every month. Pages (395.3 KB)

First-Then visual schedule

submitted on 24/6/2011 by JK Smiths

I love First-Then visual schedule app, which is available for the ipad & ipod.  I've only used it for a short time, but it beats carrying around all the Pec symbols in notebooks and makes our out-and-about days run much more smoothly. Also good for schedules & routines at home.

White noise

submitted on 6/7/2011 by Sarah Hall

I like the white noise app which helps you sleep.

Get a grip

submitted on 6/7/2011 by Flo Longhorn

The X-Band 2 allows you to hold the ipad one-handed in any position which makes it brilliant for people who are using motor impaired equipment. It also enables you to work on cognitive skills without requiring someone to concentrate on maintaining a fixed position. The ipad can follow the physical movement of the child/adult allowing them to focus purely on the cognitive or sensory task in hand.

More app tips

submitted on 7/7/2011 by Kenneth Conway

My tips are: Sensory Apps: Fluidity Communication: iSign & iSign Lite

Touch to talk

You can download an app called 'Touch to talk', which effectively turns your ipad/ipod into a communication device, great for those with no or limited speech. It is an American voice and not a great one, but still a useful app and you can download it for free.

Accessibility settings

submitted on 13/7/2011

Does everyone know about the iphone/ipad's accessibility settings? To find them click on Settings -> General -> Accessibility

Large Text: means you can make the text much larger to enable those with poorer vision to focus better on each word - this maintains settings in many apps too.

Zoom: For those apps that don't maintain the "large text" settings, this enables you to be able to zoom in, which in turn means that those with poorer vision are also able to enjoy the words and pictures which often look so small on the iphone screen.

White on Black: Inverts the colours.

VoiceOver: speaks items on the screen.

There are many more options too that others may find useful!

Aleyna's fabourite apps

submitted on 14/6/2011 by Alex Ozansoy

In the four weeks Aleyna has had her own 'pewter' she can do things she hasn't been able to do in a whole year at school. Aleyna finds holding a pencil difficult, but since the iPad, she is now able to trace every letter of the alphabet on the screen, aided by a little train or worm to guide her direction.

Another app enables Aleyna to choose letters from sounded-out phonics and create small words in a 'hangman' style game with associated pictures - absolutely genius. Little cheers and stars are awarded (optional).

The iPad enables her to navigate around the touchscreen by herself without the need for a fiddly mouse and arrow control. As a result she can now choose her games and stories.  And it is those stories that are making such a difference to her life.

We have downloaded a tranche of interactive stories, with 'press me' points bringing them to life, whilst a narrator reads, highlighting the words. Aleyna can't read but loves books. This is a magical way for her to enjoy them.

Patience is not one of Aleyna's strong points and the glory of the iPad is the speed at which she can switch it on and immediately connect to an app. No loading, no waiting = no meltdown.

One last little golden nugget is the 10 hour battery life - I will not go so far as to say road trips are now enjoyable, but the improvement is magnificent.

So if you are thinking of getting an iPad or if you have already made the life-changing move, here is my list of top apps, some free, some paid for, especially for children with special needs:


Virtuoso (Free) - a virtual piano keyboard with fantastic sound quality and labelled keys.

Wheels on the Bus (£1.49) - along with the well known children's song your child can touch the bus riders to make a guitar sound or a sports whistle and open the bus doors. Lots of different things to do in different scenes with lovely graphics.

I can be Barbie (Free) - mix a cake, make a pizza, spruce up a pooch - marvellous.

Big Buck Bunny (Free) - the story of a giant rabbit with an even bigger heart. When he is rudely harrassed one day by 3 rodents, he plans a comical revenge. Absolutely amazing animation - a short 10 minute film for your little one to watch and enjoy.

Kids Song Machine (£1.99) - a really fun app with 10 fun and crazy songs to choose from through the turn of a wheel each with some fun interactive press points.

Doodle Buddy (Free) - A great fun app giving your child the option to draw/paint with a brush, chalk or glitter pen and you can also smudge or erase parts of your picture. There are lots of different animated options that you can add to the picture such as smiley faces, a snowman or a guitar and many of these come with a fun noise as you drop them onto the page. You can then delete, save or email your completed picture.

Interactive Stories

Shrek Forever After (£2.99) - Shrek Forever After, the story - just super with some lovely little interactive bits all the way through.

Jack and the Beanstalk (£2.49) - our favourite interactive story with loads of things to press on each page and the characters tell the story as well as the narrator. Find the hidden golden egg on each page.

Christmas Tale (Free) - a seasonal tale with some lovely interactive press points, dress the Christmas tree and write a letter to Santa at the end.

Dusty D Dawg has feelings too (Free) a story told from the perspective of a dog explaining different types of feelings, particularly good for children who find it hard to express emotions.

Phonics, Letters & Numbers

ABC Sight Words (Free) - Practice spelling the words by tracing the letters.

Alphabet Tracing (Free) - a fabulous letter tracing app giving an example with a train or worm showing the direction needed to follow. Absolutely perfect and no incorrect noises or red marks for not being perfectly on the line.

My First Words (£1.99) - the aim of the game is to arrange the letters in the correct order to make up a word. The letters are pronounced when touched and if the word is completed correctly a picture of the word is displayed.

ABC Tracer (£1.49) another letter tracing app but this time needs to be more accurate.

First Words Deluxe (£2.99) - lots and lots of different and familiar words to spell. The graphics are really lovely and it is really impressive when your child matches the letters to the word.

Pocket Phonics (£1.99) - This is simply the best app with all of the freebie apps mentioned above rolled into one with lots of added benefits. Tracing letters, (with the option to switch off the accuracy tolerance), phonic sounds, sound out a word, fill in a letter and the additional and quite unique option of a UK voice.

DotToDot (£1.49) - Join the dots App which is absolutely fantastic for a child to practice counting on a simplified set of dot-to-dot puzzles designed for younger fingers. If your child touches the right dot, the app says the number. If they touch the wrong dot, the dot wriggles to let them know and the correct dot draws attention to itself. When they’ve finished the puzzle, a colourful, original picture is revealed.

Interactive Games

Miss Spider's Tea Party (£1.49) - The book can be 'watched' as a mini-movie, it can be read to you, has a colouring book feature, matching game and more.

Itsy Bitsy (£1.99) - takes the song, adds new characters to create a fun, multi-paged, musical activity book. Touch the spider and watch it jump to the next scene and find the hidden animals

Pirate Treasure Hunt (Free) - a little more advanced than others but a great game to play together with lots of different games and puzzles to eventually find the treasure.

And one for luck because it is so silly and funny...

Dress the Bunny (£0.69)- a fun game to dress a bunny in different hats and glasses, lovely!

Netbuddy is not responsible for the information provided in these info packs or any of the activities suggested.
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