Children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) experience the world in ways that are often confusing and scary. The Autism Discovery Tool simulates these difficulties using a special technique that gives non-disabled people a glimpse of what it must be like for children who are affected by autism and sensory integration disorders. For its unique approach to a difficult problem, we have awarded it a TOP PICK.
Available for download via the iTunes App Store - iPad
The Autism Discovery Tool is a new app for the iPad from Spectrum Idea Labs. It has three distinct features. First, the user can explore each of the seven senses and discover what it looks like and feels like when they become distorted. The second feature is a "sensory toolbox" that includes common sense strategies to help children with sensory issues lessen their discomfort. The third feature opens the door for honest communication and support for the child by using the situations presented in the app.
How the App Works-
The Autism Discovery Tool has a simple user interface. On the opening screen, there are seven symbols- one for each of the senses: vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, balance, and body position in space. Tapping on any one takes you to a typical scene where sensory issues might arise. Each page has a few basic button controls. In the upper right corner is the toolbox showing the different techniques that can help control the sensory messages going to the brain. In the upper left corner is the Menu button. At the bottom of the page, you can choose to experience different types of sensory input:
- typical responses (non-distorted)
- hypersensitivity (too much stimulation)
- hyposensitivity (not enough stimulation)
- distortion (where the sensations are altered in unexpected ways)
What Fun Educational Apps Liked-
Empathy is defined as the ability to identify with and understand somebody else's feelings or difficulties. Even if the Autism Discovery Tool did nothing else but increase empathy toward children and adults with autism, it would be worthwhile to download, but its benefits don't stop there. It also provides strategies to diminish the effects of the child's sensory integration issues and allows him to verbalize (as best he can) using the shared app experience as a starting point.
I've seen first-hand how children with autism are often ridiculed, judged, and bullied because non-disabled children (and adults) don't understand the distress caused by sensory overload. The Autism Discovery Tool attempts to recreate the sensory experience and disruptions that define the child's perception.
The developer of the Autism Discovery Tool is quick to point out that this app, as helpful as it is, is not meant to replace professional assessment and guidance, but rather, it seeks to educate parents, teachers, and therapy providers, and to simulate the experiences that a child struggling with
In A Nutshell-
The Autism Discovery Tool helps non-disabled folks see the world through the eyes, ears, body, and mind of a child with autism. What a wonderful way to begin the journey of acceptance! This app is a game changer for children with autism and the people who love and care for them, so for this reason, it has received the distinction of being a TOP PICK for Fun Educational Apps.
Autism Discovery Tool is available for download via the iTunes App Store - iPad
RRP - $/€4.99 - £3.99
At the time of this review, the Autism Discovery Tool does not contain third party ads, nor does it require any additional in-app purchases. According to the developer's website, the app does not collect any personal information from the user. Parents can be confident that their privacy is protected when using this app.
Review by Julie Peterson, a speech/language pathologist (SLP) currently working in a school setting, serving children with special needs ages 6-14.
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Disclosure: This review was move up the waiting list priority-services. All opinions expressed are purely that of the author.