5 Interactive Apps Geared Towards Special Needs Students

A guest post on great SEN apps. For many children access to school ended in March 2020 due to the coronavirus. Now that the spread is slowing down, however, they’re allowed to reopen fully. But a survey conducted by the National Foundation for Education Research found that 60% of school leaders feel ‘unprepared for some aspects of reopening’, such as putting strict social distancing protocols in place and ensuring that students follow them. For the safety of both students and teachers, many educational institutions have turned to virtual learning instead.

Virtual learning can be as effective as classroom-based learning, as long as you have the resources to conduct them. Fortunately, Inclusive Teach has compiled a free list of printable SEN teaching resources that you can use. Of course, they can also be sent online for students to work on them safely at home. But beyond worksheets, there’s one more tool that you can integrate into your lessons: mobile apps. You might also like our post on Assistive technology.

Apps to enhance SEN teaching.

Thanks to developments in technology, it’s very likely that there’s an app that can assist you with most of your lessons, and for every type of disability, too. We’re here to introduce you to the best of them.

Emotions App – Learn With Rufus

In a previous post we discuss the issue of facial expressions. Many children can have interpreting facial expressions. With the possible introduction of face masks in schools this issue will be much more widespread. Research by Cambridge University states that autistic children have trouble identifying faces which is where most of our emotions are portrayed. If your goal is to teach your students social cues over the internet then you’ll want to have Rufus the dog assist with your lessons

Learn With Rufus is a series of apps that help children discover the meaning behind facial expressions. The developer recommends that you start with Learn with Rufus: Feelings and Emotions. In this game, a preview of basic facial expressions, such as happy, sad, angry, and surprised, is shown to the user—which they will have to identify the emotion of in two sets of games. When your student has mastered the basics, hop onto Learn with Rufus: Fun & Games and Learn with Rufus: Groups and Categories for more fun challenges.

Zone of Regulation: Exploring Emotions App

If there are apps that teach students how to understand emotions, there are also those that help them express their own. Autistic children feel very strongly emotionally, but they have trouble conveying them (editor – This is a great example of how the double empathy problem outlined by Dr Damian Milton affects our children). ‘They may behave in ways that surprise or shock the people around them,’ shares autism expert Lisa Rudy, like aggression and meltdowns. Fortunately, learning to control one’s emotions can be taught, and The Zones of Regulation: Exploring Emotions is a great example.

This app is based on Leah Kuypers’ The Zones of Regulation. The principle teaches us that there are four ‘zones’ that we can objectively categorize our feelings into: blue for sad, green for happy, yellow for frustrated, and red for angry. There are corresponding reactions for every category that our emotion falls into. Exploring Emotions makes this process more engaging with the use of mini-games, colourful narration, and an in-app tracker users can use to apply their learnings.

Link to the Apple/Android App – Click here

Amazon fire/Kindle version – Click Here

See also  Hot and Cold Multi-Sensory Stories

Proloquo2Go Communication App

Working virtually with learners with speech and communication disabilities presents a unique challenge. If only because of the range of needs those with SpLD can present with. For example, the three most common cases—stuttering, apraxia, and dysarthria—all have to be approached differently. Professor Meaghan Goodman who leads Maryville University’s online communication sciences and disorders degree program has been a staunch supporter of using tech to help address speech pathology issues. She claims that not only do her students love working with iPads and ‘the cool factor of it’, but that educators can use installed apps to work with the whole spectrum of speech disorders as well. It’s one of the best examples from Proloquo2Go.

Proloquo2Go is a symbol-supported communication app designed to help students who have speech difficulties due to autism, Down syndrome, and other neurological conditions. The user taps on a symbol that represents a word or phrase, which the app then converts to audio. You can customise the symbols grid in several ways, from their colours to sizes. It offers support for multiple languages, like English and Spanish, with varying regional accents to fit the user’s location.

For the Apple version – Click here


There are also circumstances where the student may understand you perfectly, but have trouble writing their thoughts down. Students with dysgraphia may suffer from three things: illegible handwriting, impaired spelling, or both. Normally, you’re there to physically guide them through the process, but virtual learning makes that impossible. However, you’ll find that the iTrace app makes a good assistant.

Built on its developer’s studies that children learn best when every exercise is repeated thrice. iTrace has users copying each letter three times on every level. You can adjust the difficulty to suit their needs. Its key features include upper/lower case alphabet, numbers 0-9, cursive/block, and other common writing symbols they need to know. Plus, iTrace has over 350 basic words that they can trace for if spelling is part of your module. You can add new words as well.

For the ipad app – click here

Montessori Numbers

Students with dyscalculia, sometimes called ‘number dyslexia’, have trouble understanding basic math concepts, like counting. The most challenging part about teaching those with dyscalculia is in their difficulty in understanding the relationship between number symbols and the quantity that represents them. Devon Frye, an ADHD reporter and editor for ADDitude Magazine, highlights that it’s more effective to teach with concrete objects. ‘Children with dyscalculia benefit from visual representations of math problems,’ he points out.

The Montessori Numbers app offers a series of guided activities that can help users master basic math competencies, like counting up to 999, comparing quantities, and more. Every quantity is always represented with blocks and beads, too, so the amount is always visualized.

Whether you’re teaching math or spelling, you’re sure to find an app that can aid you in your efforts. Ideally, these apps you use these apps face-to-face, so you can physically play with their settings. However, since that’s not possible during virtual learning, it’s best to involve the learner’s parent or guardian as much as possible. Allow them to aid the student in navigating the app, as per your instruction.

Submitted solely by Hyacinth West for inclusiveteach.com

Interactive apps for special needs remote learning

5 great apps to aid special needs pupils in virtual or face to face learning. Includes apps that focus on numeracy, emotional regulation and communication.

2 thoughts on “5 Interactive Apps Geared Towards Special Needs Students”

  1. Pingback: Technology For SEN: Adaptations and Accessibility.

  2. Pingback: Lesson Planning Myths: Starter, Main and Plenary.

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