The current public health crisis has meant many young people living with autism and their families have experienced breakdowns in their normal  support systems. Following school closures, and other public health restrictions many young people living with autism will be spending more time online.

In our experience, children and young people of all ages with additional needs are no different in their desire to use new technology, and with the right support and supervision they can. As technology evolves and our understanding of it improves, we realise it has the potential to be a force for good. A powerful force that can empower young people living with autism and those that care for them.

Here are 5 ways you can use technology to support children and young people living with autism.
Please note: All prices are correct at the time of publication


An Emergency Chat App for those who are feeling overwhelmed

Individuals on the autistic spectrum can struggle to communicate verbally when feeling heightened emotions, or experiencing an emotional overload.

As stated on the App stores, the Emergency Chat app “can be used in any situation where speech is impossible, but communication is still necessary.”

The Emergency Chat App has a splash screen with “base text that explains to the person you gave your phone to that you can’t use speech and want to use this App to communicate. The default text is aimed at people experiencing an autistic meltdown, where their speech centres stay non-functional for a while even after they’ve recovered.”

Before using this App, research it for yourself – you can begin with this review from the App Store below.

“I literally just had a really bad shutdown last night because of my anxiety and couldn’t talk for hours. A lot of my friends don’t sign (I do) and that made it really hard to communicate with them – it’s been an issue in my life for a really long time and I’m so glad I found this App!
“It’s literally what I’ve been needing and I love that the message screen is customizable so that I can explain what’s happening to me specifically. I wish I’d had this last night! THANK YOU.”

Available on the Apple App store and Google Play: £Free


‘Choiceworks’ is a Visual System App for developing schedules

This app helps to create visual schedules for transitioning children and young people through multi-step tasks. This learning tool helps them with routines, understanding their feelings and learning how to wait or take turns. The App was “created with the support of leading hospitals and child development specialists” and is designed for “caregivers to provide clear and consistent support to foster a child’s independence, positive behaviour, and emotional regulation at home and in the community.”

“I never thought I would see the day my son would dress himself, but after using this app he has been dressing himself and trying to beat the time every day. I love that you can add your own daily schedule images and record your own voice. This is such an important aspect of this app as my son takes everything literally, so every single task has to be on his daily schedule.”

Available on the Apple App store : £14.99


Sound cancelling/blocking headphones for those that are sensitive to noise

Individuals who are sensitive to sound can benefit from noise-cancelling headphones. Different types of headphones will suit different individuals, for example one person may prefer in-ear headphones and another may prefer over-ear headphones.

Read through threads on Austism.org’s community section on their favourite headphones.


Learn Makaton to support the development of communication skills

Makaton is a language support programme that uses signs, symbols and speech to enable people to communicate. It is a flexible programme that can be tailored to individual needs. Using Makaton can really help in giving children, young people and adults a means of communicating and in doing so can reduce frustrations.

The charity has active social media channels that teach different signs every week and a growing library of signs on their YouTube channel.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheMakatonCharity

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/makatoncharity

Mr Tumble on Cbeebies also uses and teaches Makaton in his programme, ‘Something Special.’

If you are interested in learning Makaton, you could attend one of their training workshops (link to charity homepage). One of our members of staff at Ineqe is a also a qualified regional Makaton tutor.

At Ineqe Safeguarding Group, we have created a video using Makaton signs and images to explain the Coronavirus to children and young people. The video supports parents/carers in having a conversation on a difficult topic. The video provides you with all of the facts on what the virus is, how it can spread and what we can ALL do to make everyone safer.


Raise awareness in young children with Pablo

Pablo is an animated cartoon, about a boy with autism change to who draws imaginary animals to help him handle situations that make him feel uncomfortable. Voiced solely by individuals on the autistic spectrum, the characters within the show represent different traits of the spectrum, for example, the llama repeats things that people say (known as echolalia).

Learn more about the characters

Pablo’s Art World Adventure game can be found in the CBeebies Playtime Island app.

Signposting to Support for those on the Autistic Spectrum

We have compiled a list of regional autism support services across the United Kingdom in this downloadable PDF.

Download resource