A Review of Kids' Software for Children with ASD

Copyright, Jill Fain Lehman 1997

Although there are companies (e.g. Laureate, Millenium) who specialize in software for children with disabilities, the larger home computer market (and its retailers) are geared toward the normally-developing population. This does not mean that there is no software that might be helpful to your kids, but it does mean that you must pick and choose among titles with a particular eye toward the therapeutic issues you want to address. The information provided here presents a selection of some of the current, high-quality, off-the-shelf software that may be particularly relevant to your clients' needs. Most preschool-K software will include numbers, letters, shapes, etc. All will make claims about teaching categorization, sequencing, causality, etc. This list focuses on titles that have activities or games that involve especially relevant topics (e.g. emotion), or present standard topics (e.g. sequencing) in especially relevant ways, or present standard topics in standard ways but with relevant themes (e.g. maps, food). All titles are available as CD-ROMs on Macintosh and PC machines unless otherwise indicated. All titles are listed by the manufacturer as appropriate from ages 2-4 through 6-8.

Each entry in the list below consists of the name of the activity, its CD-ROM title and publisher, and a brief description. For convenience, entries are organized according to these categories:

Within a category the listing is alphabetical. Each game is classified only by its main category although mention of another category may appear in the description.

Auditory comprehension and language concept activities

Bing & Boing (Millie's Math House/Edmark)
Recreate-the-sound-pattern game, but you can replace the sound effects with recordings of words.
Building sentences (Jumpstart Kindergarten/Knowledge Adventure)
Map auditorily presented sentence to sequence of visual icons (includes emotion words/face icons).
Edmo & Houdini (Bailey's Book House/Edmark)
Animation of common prepositions; student can initiate action or respond to verbal prompt.
Fripple Shop (Thinkin' Things Collection I/Edmark)
Match visual attributes to verbal requests.
Keesha's Diner (JumpStart Pre-K/Knowledge Adventure)
Comparison words (biggest, tallest, most full) embedded in visual sequencing game with food theme.
Make-a-Story (Bailey's Book House/Edmark)
Choose among alternatives to complete 4 sentence stories.
Pack a Picnic (Madeline Thinking Games/Creative Wonders)
Follow progressively more difficult verbal instructions to fill a picnic basket.
Trivia Quiz (Junior Field Trip Series/Humongous Entertainment)
Included as an activity in each of the 3 CD's in the series (The Farm, The Jungle, The Airport). Questions and multiple choice answers are based on material discussed by Buzzy the Knowledge Bug as the child navigates through the farm/jungle/airport. A speaker icon reads the question and alternatives aloud for the non-reader.

Classification and abstraction activities

Feathered Friends (Thinkin' Things Collection I/Edmark)
Build birds based on detecting missing parts and similarity in features.
Find It (Junior Field Trip Series/Humongous Entertainment)
Included as an activity in each of the 3 CD's in the series (The Farm, The Jungle, The Airport). Child is shown a picture of an object somewhere in the farm/jungle/airport and asked to locate it. At the easiest level children are shown the scene in which the object appears; at the hardest level they must think about where such an object might be given what they know about the environment they have explored.
Hide and Seek (JumpStart Preschool/Knowledge Adventure)
Animated fish hides behind 2 to 4 objects in a fish bowl, auditory clues given to whereabouts.
Pattern Parade (Let's Start Learning/The Learning Company)
Complete a pattern of animals (n a musical parade) according to color, size, or sound. Starts with single, salient feature then moves to less salient features, then multiple features.
Sorting Station (Sammy's Science House/Edmark)
Very good classification game with natural categories and multiple criteria (e.g. animals with wings).
Symbol Sandbox (Trudy's Time and Place House/Edmark)
Fill-in abstract map representation of simple scenes like a road through a mountain (maps).

Event sequencing and time concept activities

Calendar Clock (Trudy's Time and Place House/Edmark)
Move animated scene forward or backward through a year of seasons by minute, hour, or month.
Fruit Shop (James Discovers Math/Broderbund)
Simple auditory direction, followed by visual cue to fill a grocery order (numbers, food).
Jellybean Hunt (Trudy's Time and Place House/Edmark)
Move ant according to directions to eat jellybeans (maps).
Make-a-Movie (Sammy's Science House/Edmark)
Arrange stills into correct sequence and play the movie; this is like having a three or four card sequencing task animated.
Mouse House (Millie's Math House/Edmark)
Follow simple verbal instructions to recreate block structures shape-by-shape (blocks, blueprints).
Photo album (Madeline European Adventures/Creative Wonders)
Arrange photo stills into a sequence (NB: for Windows only).
Treasure Hunt (My First Amazing World Explorer/DK Multimedia)
Choosing a 3-5 step "program" of directions navigates pirate ship to treasure (maps).

Emotion and/or face activities

The Airport & The Farm(Junior Field Trips/Humongous Entertainment)
Excellent fact-based exploration of two environments young children may need to visit with family or school. Previous exposure to concepts and active exploration may help in desensitization prior to actual trip.
Bulletin Board (James Discovers Math/Broderbund)
Make animal or clown faces with or without verbal instructions that can be repeated by the user via mouse click.
Face Treehouse (Elmo's Preschool/CTW Sesame Street )
Create faces that match Elmo's feelings (NB: for Windows only).
Faces (Jumpstart Kindergarten/Knowledge Adventure)
Find the missing piece of a face, color face, change different features.
Mixed Emotions (Grammar Rock/Creative Wonders)
Memory game in which you match interjections to appropriate facial expressions or body postures (for older children).

Page maintained by Jill Fain Lehman, Senior Research Scientist, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University. Last updated: April 1998