New App Helps Kids with Autism

Using tech for good

New App Helps Kids with Autism


What if there was a way to boost eye contact and social interaction in kids with autism that was not only painless, but a lot of fun?

Well, there is, and it's 100% free.

Samsung Canada has partnered with Autism Speaks Canada to roll out "Look at Me" (LAM), an app that uses built-in web camera functionality to increase eye contact and social connectivity in kids with ASD. In a trial whereby Samsung generously donated tablets loaded with LAM to 200 Canadian families, the results speak for themselves.
For the first time in her life, Cailin (seen in the video below) is smiling and taking selfies with her family and school friends.
After hearing about the successes these families enjoyed, I was keen to try out LAM at home. After all, my six year-old son LOVES tablets (show me a kid his age who doesn't). Yet even the most educational apps tend to suck him into a world of his own - the exact opposite of what a child with social challenges needs.
As for eye contact, short of asking him to "look at me," I admit a reluctance to push something that my son clearly finds uncomfortable. But if an app can gently encourage him to make more eye contact, then I'm all over that.
I'll be honest. The app isn't perfect; LAM still suffers from some early-stage hiccups. But the fact of the matter is, Samsung has done an amazing thing by putting its tech prowess to good use.  

How it works

In each daily "mission" there are half a dozen challenges, some of which require the user to decode the feelings behind certain facial expressions. Others play on a social component; e.g.) someone poses for the camera while the user aligns facial features within a template. 
The user scores points for every mission - mercifully limited to one per day - and an encouraging voice promises "You can do better next time." Parents can track progress via a secure login. 
Though my son undertakes his daily mission with gusto, he finds the camera work too frustrating and fiddly and frequently winds up bypassing this aspect of LAM altogether. This may be because he's still quite young.
Every kid is different, though. While some may see few gains from Samsung's app, for other families, like Cailin's, LAM will be nothing short of a game-changer -- hopefully one that will spark further interactive autism apps. 
Compatible with 8+ Samsung devices, the Look at Me app is now available on Google Play.

6 Great Learning Toys for Kids With Autism

Play - with a purpose

6 Great Learning Toys for Kids With Autism


Finding the right toys for kids with autism can pose a challenge. After all, kids with autism don't always play with toys in the most functional way, and yet some toys help develop crucial skills—whether social, communicative, or motor-based. 

Luckily St. David Center for Child & Family Development has just made your shopping life a lot easier. Together with Creative Kidstuff, a Minnesota-based toys company, St. David's has identified the best bets for kids on the autism spectrum in six different categories. 

Though Creative Kidstuff is based in the US, the toys listed are available through international shipping. Most items can also be found north of the border at retailers like Walmart, Toys R Us, Indigo, and Amazon.

Here are the top ASD toys as recommended by St. David's, with a brief description how each benefits kids on the spectrum:


My Mood Memo

Provides the opportunity for social engagement and interaction with parents, siblings, or friends. Helps increase understanding of emotional identification. Texture and weight of the discs provides nice sensory input while matching and colours aids in cognitive skills.


Senseez Pillows

Great for sensory motor development and regulation. The pillow vibrates, and a child can sit on it and receive sensory input, which is useful for a child who has difficulty sitting for a task/activity; helps the child with attention and focus.


Mozart Magic Cube

Great for teaching cause and effect. Helps cognition skills with the colours and different sounds, nice sensory aspect if child enjoys the music and lights.


Weighted Blanket


Great for sensory/motor development and also helps with emotional regulation; child can place it on their lap, or around their shoulders; provides nice sensory input; also has nice textures for the child to feel. 


Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game

Great for a variety of skills. Interactive nature allows for social interaction and engagement with family members and friends. This game helps teach turn-taking, sensory motor development while aiding in cognitive development through learning colours, counting and communication as you can talk about what colour it is, how many, whose turn it is, etc.


Snap Circuits 300

Great for cognition and problem-solving, and can be used in a variety of ways and adapted to different skill levels. Opportunity for social engagement and interaction if the child needs support from an adult or older peer to help put the items together. This game could be an interactive or individual activity.
Have any of these toys helped your child or children you've worked with? 
Any items you would add to this list?