Posted by: drmiw | February 14, 2017

Top 10 lists of digital education apps for children with special needs

It is often remarked that most children, and even toddlers, find digital technology – such as tablet computers and apps – intuitive and easy to use. They have no fear. They just seem to ‘get it’ and get on with it. But what about children with special needs who may have learning difficulties and/or poor motor control? Minecraft, for example, may be way beyond them, but there must surely be digital education tools out there that these children can enjoy and learn from at home or in a classroom environment, and yet I know specialist primary school teachers who struggle to find good educational software to use.

This then is my first attempt at finding and compiling a list of compiled lists of the top digital educational apps available for children with special needs. I hope that it serves as a starting point for teachers out there but please let me know – using the comments section below – of any better lists or any educational software you would recommend and I’ll update this page in the coming weeks and months.

After trying numerous search terms here are the top 10 resources I found:

  1. The Educational App Store – a hand-picked and categorised list of special education apps that the authors feel are appropriate for users with learning difficulties
  2. Common Sense Media special needs guide – categorised lists of apps that have been “recommended and tested by field experts”
  3. The Best Apps for Kids: Special Education Apps – provides star ratings
  4. Free ‘must have’ iPad Apps for Special Education – produced by TCEA, the Association of Educators
  5. Spectronics: Apps for Special Education – a list of “specifically designed” SEN apps or ones used “effectively with students with diverse learning needs”
  6. The Journal’s list of ‘The Top 10 iPad Apps for Special Education’ – includes some other interesting recommendations in the comments section
  7. The One Place for Special Needs – claims to “break down the best of the apps by skill set so you can easily find and buy apps that most benefit your child”
  8. The Educational Technology and Mobile Learning blog – a categorised list of apps they “would recommend for teachers and parents of kids with learning disabilities”
  9. BridgingApps – a list of apps “reviewed using standards-based assessment tools”
  10. SEN Teacher resources – “printables, specialist links, free software downloads and search tools for all types and levels of special and remedial education”

Requirements for Special Educational Needs Apps

So what makes a good interactive digital education software for children with special needs? Here, based on chats with a teacher friend of mine, are some suggestions for desirable features:

  • Simple layout
  • Very few (if any) words, unless it is a word game
  • Simple imagery
  • Instant feedback
  • Engaging content
  • Tasks that only require basic motor skills (not precise drag-and-drop mouse skills!)
  • Works on any device, including, and especially, interactive white boards

Watch this nice introductory video from Common Sense Media below.

Educational software: My motivation for this blog post

Why am I interested in this subject? Well I used to be a web accessibility consultant, I’ve worked extensively in the Education sector, and I have continued to be involved in the digital participation community in Scotland since I moved here from England. But the main reason is that a close friend of mine is a primary school teacher who works with children with special needs and she is constantly on the lookout for new tools she can use with her class. My company has developed a simple spelling app for her which has been a big hit with her kids and we plan to open source this educational software in the near future. We usually work on interactive apps and websites for universities so this is a bit of a departure for us, and we’re doing it for free, but no other job has given us more satisfaction.

As for this blog post, it is for a project I’m doing as part of my studies for The ADBL Executive Diploma in Digital Business, but hopefully someone out there will find it useful!


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