Toca Boca interactive apps for children with autism – w/video

9966798613_7a5dbe4331_mToca Boca’s apps are different to many apps that are currently on the market, and target a similar demographic; as there are no winners or losers, spoken words, text or in-app ads, all of which help to provide a calm and stress free environment for children with autism to play in. There is also a lack of structure that enables them to experience communication and language, social skills, and repetitive and inflexible behaviors as and wish they choose to, there is no pressure, the app is all based upon play and what the child wants to do.

All of the apps are brightly colored and simplistic in design.

Shannon Rosa who is the co-founder and senior editor at the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, blogger, writer and mother to Leo, a 14-year-old with autism, was able to answer some of our questions related to the use of Toca Boca apps. Our interview with Shannon can be read below.

How did you learn about the Toca Boca apps?

A friend who was an early iPads and apps enthusiast told me about Toca Boca apps. She is a speech therapist (SLP) and had been spending a lot of time evaluating which apps were most appropriate for — and most enjoyed by — her autistic clients. She also was sensitive to my software production background (at Electronic Arts and The Learning Company) and knew I wouldn’t have much patience for badly designed apps.

5523606049_a3e478c213_mWhat was the first Toca Boca app that Leo used and how old was he?

Leo’s first Toca Boca app, the one recommended by my friend, was Toca Tea party. Leo had just turned eleven at the time.

How did he respond and engage with the app?

I was skeptical because Leo had never really been interested in pretend tea parties before, but the app was about much more than that — about setting the table and cleaning the dishes afterward, and getting to pretend to eat yummy cake. He really enjoyed doing all those things in the fanciful, intuitively designed Toca Boca fashion.

What do you feel are the benefits of him using these apps?

I think the apps are useful because they let Leo play the way he wants to, and do so independently. Autistic kids’ lives tend to be highly scheduled, which can lead to less free time than their non-autistic peers. They also are too often put in “play” environments where everything is actually not play, but instead is therapeutic or social or otherwise for “building skills.” We need to remember to let autistic kids play, and have free time. A blog post by Cynthia Kim, The Importance of Play, can be read here.

What is his favourite Toca Boca app?

It definitely varies. He was a Toca Band fan for a long, long time, because he loves music and rhythm, and the app lets him experiment with sound textures, tempos, and layers. And he still loves making colorful, wacky hairstyles with Toca Salon. Lately, though, he’s been having fun driving all over the countryside of Toca Cars.

How do you feel generally about the use of apps and the iPad in teaching children with autism social and communication skills?

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About Jo Worgan

Jo Worgan is a published author, writer and blogger. She has a degree in English Literature. She writes about life with her youngest son who is on the autistic spectrum. Jo tweets (@mummyworgan) and is also a freelance columnist for the Lancaster Guardian. ‘My Life with Tom, Living With Autism‘ is her second book and a culmination of her blog posts, and available on Kindle now, along with her first book, Life on the Spectrum. The Preschool years.