When students with autism spectrum disorders get to high school, it can be harder for speech-language pathologists to meet clinical objectives. Complicated class schedules and students' and families' increased resistance to pull-out services can limit time for direct intervention. Yet these students need SLPs' support more than ever to set transitional goals and access related services.
The good news is that mobile apps can help. SLPs can use them to play a key consultative role in addressing communication and language skills, especially when direct services are reduced or eliminated. Before using apps with students, SLPs should first ensure that the Individualized Education Program team—and designated staff—have conducted a consideration of assistive technology.
Providing or facilitating the use of a mobile device can help students access curriculum-based, productivity or organizational apps and lay the groundwork for post-high school transition. Some school districts have "bring your own device" policies for students. SLPs, with our unique lens, can provide key consultation to the team to ensure optimal use of these technologies.
Touching the curriculum
Students with cognitive-linguistic challenges can struggle to access high school curriculum content in mainstream classrooms. Apps can help them access language concepts and vocabulary by applying the principles of Universal Design for Learning. For example, students can express their knowledge of content through comic creation apps such as Strip Designer (iOS, $2.99) or Comic Strip It (Android, free lite version. These apps leverage students' interest in comic books and graphic novels. SLPs can turn Internet images into comics explaining complex topics from students' classes. "Explanimation" apps such as ScreenChomp (iOS, free) easily integrate images, drawings and text to produce animations that scaffold comprehension and expression of curriculum topics.
Higher-functioning students can struggle to meet teachers' and parents' expectations to manage work more independently as they prepare for post-secondary opportunities. Evernote and Google Drive (previously Docs) reduce paper-based pitfalls for students who tend to misplace notebooks, papers and other materials. SLPs can help these students learn organizational and note-taking strategies through use of Evernote (free for iOS, Android and Web), a notebook-based tool allowing students to organize, categorize and search their class notes. Evernote syncs well with its separate visual components, Skitch and Penultimate, allowing for production of sketches, diagrams and graphic organizers.
Google's productivity suite has also become more accessible on mobile devices (see free Google Drive apps for iOS, or Android), and because many districts have adopted Google Apps For Education, consultation around these tools can assist students in researching, organizing and collaborating for assignments, as well as turning in work through the apps' built-in sharing features. Apps such as InClass (free on iOS) facilitate students' time and assignment management by providing a means to electronically record task lists, along with images, audio and video, and reminder alerts.
For students with ASDs, academic objectives are usually accompanied by social goals. Sosh (iOS, $39.99, lite version available for trial) is a comprehensive app supporting social interaction from a cognitive-behavioral perspective. It uses audio features and includes a voice meter, behavior tracker, visuals supporting emotional development and regulation, and lists of communication strategies.
For a "game-ified" take on social and emotional growth, try SuperBetter (iOS, also playable for free on Web and Android), a fun way for students to earn points while tracking "Power-Ups" and "Quests," simple but positive strategies for social interaction and emotional management.