The following is a list of apps that I have personal experience with that I feel has helped my son in a variety of ways. Some have been scholastic in nature, some he has just found entertaining, and some have been soothing. Unless otherwise noted all of the games are on iOS/iPad.
A note on tablets…
I am in IT and have access to a wide variety of computers and tablets. To wit I have several Android, iOS and Windows based tablets in a variety of sizes and configurations. From my experience the iPad has been the superior device in regards to the others when it comes to the following concerns: Battery life, screen, number of apps available, quality of apps, durability, and parental controls. As an aside I am usually in the Microsoft camp for most everything but I have to give credit where it is due.
If money is a concern you can pick up used iPad 2’s and 3’s from a variety of credible online resellers including Amazon.com. My kids for example are still using iPad 2’s and they have been more than adequate for their needs. A friend of mine has his kid using his Gen 1 iPad with no issues. Just make sure you also pick up a durable tablet case, as little hands tend to be clumsy hands. As an example, this is the case that I got for our kids, and it has been fantastic.
Please note: I have no affiliation with any of the apps or other items suggested in this article nor do I make any money off these recommendations. These are simply my suggestions based on my personal experience. Your mileage may vary.
Some of these apps are available for both iOS and Android, in these instances I have linked to the developers home page instead of the itunes page.
There are 8 separate games included in this bundle: EduPaint, EduKitty, EduKitchen, EduRoom, EduKids, EduMath 1, EduMath 2, and EduBirthday. This group of games has been excellent, covering everything from colors, to counting and math, to telling time, sorting and organizing and more. I recommend that you pick up all of the games in the series, well worth the money.
Excellent paid app, teaches puzzle solving, organization and shapes skills. Very interesting take on puzzles too. Each puzzle is themed and the puzzle pieces are parts of some object(s) that comprise the theme. The app is also constantly being updated with new puzzles based on holidays and special events. My son found this game to be highly entertaining for quite some time.
Another truly excellent series of games that has been a huge boon to my child. The production, art and sounds are top notch and the games are exceedingly well done. I recommend these 4 games. There is another game in this series that my son found to be highly entertaining (Endless ABC) but after reading a few complaints that it does not teach the correct phonemes (sounds) of some of the letters I cannot recommend it for special needs learning.
This developer is incredibly prolific, having somewhere in the range of 70+ apps listed on the itunes store, so I have linked to their company page which lists them all. This particular app was used by one of the therapy places that we took my son to for a while so I picked it up for our own use. It runs on both iPhone and iPad. It’s a paid app but at .99 cents how can you lose.
This game teaches kids how to write their letters and learn the alphabet by using clever sounds and animations. Your child picks a letter and their are 4 challenge stages that your child has to go through with the final stage being that your child has to write the letter (using their finger) on screen without any guidance. This game was a bit hit with my son and kept his attention for months. According to his writing teacher he showed measurable gains in writing ability after using this app. Highly recommended.
I’m including a link to the homepage of this company as almost all of the apps they make have been very useful in a variety of ways. If I have to pick one out to recommend above the rest it would be the Pre-K Basic Skills app whose icon is pictured to the left. It features 12 activities to practice numbers, patterns, puzzles, letters, counting, sizes, shadows, matching, colors, shapes, differences and more.
Other lists from around the internet
This is a huge list of apps primarily for iOS and Android devices, but there is also a welcome smattering of Windows 8/10 and Windows Mobile apps and applications included. It also includes some books. The layout is not the most user friendly as you have to first click on the app you are interested in which in turn takes you to a new page that contains a summary of what the app entails. Aside from that this is by far the largest repository I’ve found on the internet.
While this list contains far fewer listings than the list from Autism Speaks, it is more user friendly, offering pictures and details about each app on a single page. This list also contains some of the professional grade apps used for non-verbal communication.
A fairly detailed list from Parents magazine.