Special Needs iPhone Apps

For parents with children with disabilities, smartphone technology presents a real advantage by offering a variety of convenient capabilities all in on easy-to-carry package.

“The iPhone has really been a breakthrough for kids with disabilities,” explains Suzanne Robitaille, the author of The Illustrated Guide to Assistive Technology (2010, Demos Health), who also blogs at AbledBody.com. “It gives kids some control in their lives, whether to monitor a chronic illness or to better communicate and socialize with their peers.”

Here are nine apps that might make life a little easier.

1. iSign

Offered by: iDev2.com
Cost: Free lite version, $4.99 full version
How it helps: Using animated figures to show you how to sign, this app teaches American Sign Language and, Robitaille says, lets “deaf people communicate with their hearing peers.” The free version of this app is fairly limited with only 25 signs; the full includes 800.

2. Glucose Buddy

Offered by: oneAppOneCause
Cost: Free
How it helps: Robitaille explains, “This is a smart way for diabetics to track blood glucose, food, exercise and medicine.” She points out that “it’s not really designed for kids,” but parents can still benefit from it.

3. FastMall

Offered by: MindSmack
Cost: Free
How it helps: This free app allows users to find wheelchair accessible routes through retail stores and shopping malls – and restrooms (all it takes is a shake). The big drawback to this app is it doesn’t include every mall, so you should check to see if your favorite is listed. More sites are constantly being added. 

4. Pillbox

Offered by: Community Health Network
Cost: Free
How it helps: Instead of trying to remember which medication you gave your child – and when – Pillbox can keep track for you. If you need to give your child’s health care provider a list of what medications he’s on or how frequently he takes them, this app can be a quick reference.

5. Polka Health

Offered by: Polka
Cost: $0.99
How it helps: This app allows parents to keep track of their child’s daily health progress. What’s helpful with Polka Health is you can allow others to view updates that you enter. You can select updates to make private or even enable a link to a Twitter account. For families who are trying to keep track of their child’s care from a distance (think overnight stay at grandma’s), this app could come in handy.

6. iPrompts

Offered by: Handhold Adaptive, LLC
Cost: $49.99
How it helps: For parents with children who are autistic, have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), this app can make working through a daily schedule easier. The picture scheduler helps parents to guide children from one event to the next.

7. IEP Checklist

Offered by: Nurvee
Cost: Free
How it helps: Developed by the Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC), this app pulls together all of the information parents need to keep track of their child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP is an action plan that educators, parents, state and local educational agencies put in place to help meet the needs of students with disabilities. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates that students with special needs have IEPs.

8. The Americans with Disabilities Act Reference

Offered by: Connecting People Software
Cost: $0.99
How it helps: Often securing services for children with disabilities can be a challenge. This straightforward app includes the actual bill, dividing it into sections. It’s a handy reference if you need to explain your child’s rights to someone who is unfamiliar with the language of the bill.<

9. Proloquo2go

Offered by: Assistive Ware
Cost: $189.99
How it helps: The hefty price tag is actually deceiving – this app is a great deal! For children who need help speaking, larger products, called augmentative and alternative communication devices, or AAC devices, can cost well into the thousands. Add to that, some of the bulkier versions were a real drawback for users. But with this iPhone app, users have a 7,000-word vocabulary ready and available. Plus, Robitaille, says one additional draw – “There’s the coolness factor.”


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