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From Star Trek to the hands of my almost-3 year old daughter, the iPad has come a long way. I’m still learning all that it has to offer my child, and the apps therein that help her learn to speak, read, write, calculate and more: compose her first opera.

While this list was composed with the child with Down syndrome in mind, it is easily applicable to most other development delays. My typically-developing 4 year old also happily engages himself with a good many of these apps, so keep the door open in terms of applicability.


Educational Apps for kids with Special Needs

Note that many of these apps have a “free” or “lite” version that you can try before you buy. These versions have fewer features, but just enough to give you an idea if it is an app that will work for you. We have tried to include the links for the free versions when offered.

You can find many of these apps for free or discounted periodically. We will make every attempt to list the discounts as we learn about them. Or you can follow some of the developers and FB groups listed below for regular app deals.

Fine Motor




Learning ABCs


  • Learning A-Z Work on reading and comprehension at your child’s level. If your school has this, you might be able to access for free at home. Options to purchase books as well. Your student can listen to the book being read or read it to a friend. We use this regularly and make flashcards of new words to learn.


  • Monster at the End of the Book If your child likes Sesame Street, and is early elementary or younger, this is a fun interactive book where they can knock down blocks and remove paper clips.

  • Cookie Monster…-sesame/id536771665?mt=8 Another fun and interactive book with Sesame Street favorite, Cookie Monster.

  • Toy Story Excellent interactive read-along.

  • Madagascar, Ice Age, Pirates, Kung Fu Panda, etc. Many of the popular kid movies have corresponding interactive or follow-along books. Browse to find your favorites.

  • I Like You can download all 37 books for a small cost or each one individually for free. Nice beginning reader books with colorful photographs.

  • Lulu in Polynesia Cute children’s book with songs and fun activities throughout.

  • Lulu in Australia Another in the Lulu series. Cute story with engaging facts and activities.

  • Penelope the Purple Pirate Nice interactive adventure story.

  • Treasure Kai  Adventure story with lots of discoveries along the way. Recommended for elementary students and up. Click here for a video.

  • Roxie’s Doors Fun “I Spy” type of app.


  • Bitsboard
  • Toca Doctor
  • Injini
  • Toca Hair Salon
  • Mickey Mouse Road Rally
  • Word World

App Developers

These app developers have a number of high-quality apps which are appealing to kids as well as adults. It’s a good idea to check them periodically to see what’s new.

Alligator apps
Grasshopper apps
Little Bit Studio
Tribal Nova

Facebook Groups To Follow

You can “Like” the following Facebook groups to learn about free apps and discounts.

  • Smart Apps For Kids
  • App Friday
  • iMums


Special thanks to Lisa Orvis, who runs the Educational Strategies for Children with Down syndrome group on facebook (it’s a closed group but Lisa will add you if you knock at the door) for all of her recommendations and specific detailing of app functions.


Any to add? Or favorites you already use?

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  1. Maeve loves Elmo’s ABC’s and Endless Alphabet – thanks for the other recommends!

  2. I hope I catch that post! At what age do you think kids can/should get started on an iPad or tablet?

    1. I think it depends on the child… Moxie’s 2 (almost 3) and Micah’s 4 (almost 5) and we’ve had our ipad for around 6 months now. We could have started earlier though, I think.

  3. We love Bugs and Buttons! Great for OT and learning. I would recommend Sound Touch Lite as a wonderful flash card app. It’s Jakey’s go-to game and he has learned so many words from playing it.

  4. This is awesome and came at a perfect time since we just got Cora an iPad last week. She’s already addicted. The only surprise I have in checking out her list is the lack of additional Reading Apps, especially considering how many are listed in other sections. So much research on children with Ds (and I know this list isn’t just for Ds, of course) shows that teaching reading is the most effective way to improve cognition, speech and a gazillion other things. And I do have Little Reader (although not as an app) and I like it, I know there are a lot of people who prefer other programs/techniques of teaching reading. I am involved in a great group here in Portland, focusing on teaching literacy to our kids and it’s amazing to see all the resources. Perhaps this could be another great post. My friend Susan is very up on her research and her resources and she has been so helpful to us.

  5. Caleb is almost 6, but we’ve been using the iPad for a couple years. Some faves: iwritewords (fine motor), little writer (alligator apps-which we love!), PBS kids (good shows-Super Why,Daniel Tiger, Sid the Science kid, etc), Miss Spider’s bedtime book, Once Upon a Potty, Fruit Ninja (fine motor and fun too), Lingraphica has videos for modeling speech (Small Talk, etc.), Word Bingo. So many great apps-hard to list them all!

  6. Ty and Tracy says:

    I recently came across Flashcards by Me for cognition developed by Laughing Fairy, a Mom who has a son with Ds. It’s a great app and I like it even more because it comes from a parent who gets it. Also can’t say enough about all the apps Learning Touch puts out, Bob’s Books especially have helped my son with Ds with reading.

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