How to Choose a High Quality Learning App for Children with Special Educational Needs

Are you looking for high quality learning apps for your child? Perhaps for over the summer holidays to compliment their learning from school?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found it an absolute minefield trying to find learning Apps that are good quality and cater for children with Special Educational Needs.

In my experience, many educational apps try to be exciting, colourful, full of movement and sound in order appeal to children (and to compete against the thousands of other apps on the market). And whilst these features clearly engage many children and encourage learning through play (which is brilliant!) they often aren’t suitable for some children with Special Educational Needs for various reasons:

Firstly if your child, or the children you are working with in school, have difficulties with hand strength, hand eye coordination or fine motor skills (For example, children who have cerebral palsy or Dyspraxia can experience difficulties in these areas) then they may find their movements with their fingers on the screen aren’t precise/quick enough to enable them to achieve on many educational apps. This can be frustrating for the child as they may be more than capable of answering the questions or doing the task on the app, but are limited by their fine motor skills.

Another feature that some educational apps have which can pose difficulties for some children with Special Educational Needs are count downs timers. Whilst these can make educational games more exciting, fast paced and competitive they can create unnecessary stress for some children, for example children with dyslexia. They may find the countdown creates too much pressure or they may simply need longer to carry out the task.

Many apps we’ve looked at also don’t cater well for Autistic children, which is incredibly disappointing. In my experience, the colourful backgrounds, moving characters and music in a lot of educational apps can prove too distracting for some autistic children.

I’ve also found that when looking for apps that help develop skills such as fine motor skills, communication skills, literacy and basic numeracy- the apps are often not age appropriate for older children with special educational needs. There are some fantastic ‘baby’ apps for example, for helping children learn first words or learn to count, but they are aimed at babies and so often aren’t engaging for many older children.

Thankfully, there are apps out there that have taken these things (and many more factors) into consideration. We were excited to find out about Special iApps*- educational apps that are specifically designed for children with Special Educational Needs.



Special iApps were founded by parents who, frustrated at not being able to find suitable educational apps for their child who has Down Syndrome and Autism, decided just to create their own apps! Which I think is brilliant!

Their collection of high quality, fun educational apps cover a range of skills from communication to numeracy. Each app is specifically designed to support children with Special Educational Needs.

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Examples of their apps include:

Special Words- a fantastic app that teaches and assesses children to recognise written and spoken words through a visual card matching game. It helps develop fine motor skills, language and communication skills and a child’s vocabulary. The word list can be edited to suit the child’s learning objectives.

Special Stories- A truly open-ended app that allows you to create, save, share and print fully personalised social stories, step by step instructions, photo albums or home-school communications. Children can work with an adult to add photographs, record speech and add text to their stories.

How do they cater for children with Special Educational Needs?

There’s a lot of factors that make Special iApps suitable for children with Special Educational Needs, these include:

  • No time-limits or count down timers– Ensuring children have as long as they need to complete the task without any pressure.
  • No distracting background music, colours or moving characters– We loved how simple the design of each of Special iApps games was- great for helping children (for example autistic children) focus more easily on the task in hand. It also makes the games appear more grown up and not ‘babyish’.



  • Support Children Who Find Touch Screen Apps Difficult– As I mentioned, one of our frustrations with some apps is that children with difficulties with fine motor control find they can’t select the correct answer on apps because their movements with their fingers might not be accurate enough. What’s great about Special iApps is children can still get the correct answer if they accidentally tap more than once, take their finger off or don’t position the card completely over the box. One aspect we didn’t test our, but were thrilled to hear about- is that many of their iPad apps support using Bluetooth switches. So if children aren’t able to use the apps by touching the screen, they could use these.

  • Fully Personalised– The most exciting thing about Special iApps is how much you can personalise their apps for your child’s needs, likes, dislikes etc and also to make it more relevant to them. The detail and depth to how you can personalise their apps is honestly incredible. With Special Words for example, on a simple level you can change the background colour for example to make it easier for the child to read the text. Or change the animation speed to suit their ability. On a more advanced level you can fully personalise it by changing the images in the games to your own photos and even record your own voice or the child’s voice for them to listen to! And you can personalise the game to fit your learning objectives, by changing the word list to the words you are currently helping them to learn. Amazing.
Screen Shot of the settings for Special Words App.

Screen Shot of the settings for Special Words, which allows you to change the image to your own image of a Dolly and record the word Dolly yourself!



Where can you find them?

For iPads and iPhones visit the App Store to find them here. For Android and Chromebook click here. Have a look on their website here.

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*Please note we received samples of these Apps for review and this post is sponsored. All thoughts and opinions are our own.

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