Seven Apps to Take Back to School

Young Woman with laptop looking at Apps graphics

It’s that time of year again… Parents and children crowd the aisles of Target and Walmart pushing shopping carts loaded up with notebooks, binders, pencils, crayons, lunch boxes and backpacks. But not all the tools for a successful school year are on store shelves. Apps —found on your child’s laptop, smartphone or tablet— may be the most helpful back-to-school tools of all. Especially useful for children with special needs, new apps are cropping up daily. We did some homework and discovered some apps that come highly recommended by teachers, therapists, parents and students.

Conversation Builder Teen
This app helps teens with social skills challenges to learn reciprocal conversation skills. Conversation Builder uses a visual format to teach users how and when to introduce themselves, ask questions, and when it’s time to change the subject. Including 300 different conversations and over 4,000 audio clips, the app groups conversations into eight sections — school, sports, entertainment, bullying, sarcasm, relationships, summer and clothes, so that students can feel more comfortable conversing in a variety of social situations. Please note: Conversation Builder also comes in a version for elementary school-aged children.

Talking Calculator
With large colorful buttons, an option for contrast and full voice-over support, this app is ideal for students with low vision. According to the, “The app actually talks to students, telling them which button their finger is currently hovering over. When students are calculating something, the app can vocalize the answer.”

Articulation Station Pro
Developed by a speech language pathologist, this app uses attractive images and engaging drills to help students learn to articulate their words more clearly. Articulation Station Pro is meant to be used with help from a therapist, teacher or parent.

Touch and Learn Emotions
Learning how to read emotions is one of life’s most important skills. Touch and Learn Emotions uses beautiful photos and fun games to help children with social communication challenges to read social cues.

This music app makes it possible for people with physical disabilities to make music. Including recordings of instruments such as electric and acoustic guitar and bass; strings, brass, keyboards and so many more, Thumbjam makes music lovers into musicians! Writes Cara Batema for Special “The app at its most basic is effortless — the sounds and music you can create with it are incredible and almost anyone can use it.”

Dragon Anywhere
Though it’s not new and it’s not specifically for deaf and hearing people, Dragon Anywhere is widely used by people in the deaf community. This app allows deaf and hearing people to communicate with each other by converting speech into text in real time, a lot like closed caption TV. Dragon can also be used to advantage by students who have challenges writing and taking notes. Use the app during meetings or classes and it will take notes for you!

Designed for people who are nonverbal or difficult to understand because of disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism or Down syndrome, this augmentative alternative communication app includes starter boards with large or small buttons that enable people on different levels to communicate using their smartphones, tablets or computers. Coughdrop also works well for visually impaired students since the app has a built in speak mode that allows users to hear the words they choose.