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iPad apps for students with special needs

New York Teacher

With adaptive technology, customization, and voice and touch controls, iPads are becoming a valuable tool in more and more special education classrooms. The iPad allows students to practice skills in a safe environment with their teachers and aides; communicate clearly and effectively; and even accomplish tasks that were previously difficult or impossible.


A math game from Dexteria for the iPhone and the iPad.

Here are apps to explore if you are working with special needs students or those who need some extra support.

Bookshare (free for students and schools with account registration) is an online collection of books adapted for students with print disabilities, featuring text-to-speech human voice reading, read-along highlighted words, enlarged fonts, digital Braille and embedded images. There is an impressive selection of classics and popular books. You can access books directly on an Internet browser or download an accessible ebook reader like Read2Go ($19.99) for an iPad.

Dexteria ($3.99) is designed for practicing fine motor-skill development. Most activities are game-based and include hand and finger exercises to hone coordination, strength and control. Students can also practice letter writing using the iPad’s touch interface.

Social Skill Builder ($24.99 for full app with all modules) includes video prompts of social situations and asks for students’ points of view of what they are seeing and hearing. It’s presented in a lively quiz format with instant feedback, and it illustrates many social cues that special needs students may need help recognizing.

Speech Prompts ($19.99) provides support to those on the autism spectrum, as well as other speech disorders, through working on the rate, rhythm, volume, phrasing and intonation of speech. Students receive feedback on their speech patterns, create their own voice samples and can upload their own visuals for additional help.

Abilipad ($19.99) is an adaptive notepad for student writing with text-to-speech functions and predictive spelling that allows a user to customize the iPad keyboard to his or her own personal needs. It includes the OpenDyslexic font, which increases readability for students with dyslexia.

Proloquo2Go ($249.99) bills itself as “a voice for those who cannot speak,” and it lives up to the hype. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s also comprehensive and customizable. Unlike other apps, it’s been around since the start of iPads and has gone through many updates to become a solid assistive support. Through the use of symbols and text-to-speech functions, students on the autism spectrum and those with speech delays are able to personalize and communicate their own needs.

There are literally thousands of apps made for all varieties of student needs so do your research. Be sure to check out, a site with app recommendations for special needs students, including product reviews with video demonstrations.

Apple’s own Education Store has a special education section with instructions on ways to control and personalize the iPad for specific student needs. is a comprehensive iPad site that includes advice for use with students with disabilities.

Prices for apps vary widely, and some are expensive due to media and personalization functions, so check options carefully before purchasing.