Friday, March 1, 2013

REVIEW: AutisMate by SpecialNeedsWare

  AutisMate by SpecialNeedsWare (iPad only, $149.99 at time of review)

A MUST see video of AutisMate in action- featured on CNN

If you saw this earlier review of AutisMate, you may notice AutisMate has been completely revamped with more intuitive navigation and a substantial amount of new features.  (PLEASE SEE THE ITUNES DESCRIPTION FOR THE MOST CURRENT UPDATED FEATURES.)

As of May 2014 a new AutisMate should be out-AutisMate 365. All existing AutisMate users prior to this release will always have access to the original AutisMate as they did prior to the release, at no additional cost.

Note from Developer: The new features of AutisMate 365, including cloud syncing capabilities, a community content library and easy collaboration between home, school and therapy, are all enhancements to the current features of AutisMate.   Because we value our loyal users so much, we are offering them a free two-year cloud subscription so they can try out all the new, exciting features of AutisMate 365. There is no credit card required to activate the subscription, they can cancel at any time and there is no obligation to continue the subscription after the two years are up.  All current supports and content in AutisMate will be automatically and seamlessly backed up and available instantly on AutisMate 365.

 Stay tuned for more information, but you can sign up here to be one of the first in the meantime: AutisMate 365

Enter to win a code for this app during Autism Awareness Month here:

AutisMate has been steadily adding useful features since it first came out- this is something you will notice quickly- the developers are very responsive to user needs and have incorporated a number of features requested, to create a truly flexible life skills/communication tool for those with autism or other special needs.
Developer Comment: Thanks for highlighting our development process and how we truly value the feedback and systematically incorporate what we hear to improve AutisMate. For us, we are really trying to build the best solution out there and be able to use modern technology in new ways to help individuals with special needs. Part of what's so revolutionary about AutisMate is our unified approach to communication and behavioral development. Other AAC tools out there focus on a specific level of development (sentence building) and are silo'd from all of the behavioral development that is often just as important as the communication needs. Why this approach is so powerful is because communication and behavioral development are inherently interconnected - you can't teach daily living skills without bridging the communication gap. Secondly, AutisMate is the only solution that can truly grow with your needs. So many of our learners today begin at a complex sentence building level but don't have the prerequisite language skills to succeed here. Our visual scenes and hybrid scene-grid choice boards give early communicators a way to communicate at a level that is not too abstract or complex for them. As they develop those skills, they can progress to a system that offers generative language through our sentence builder. All along the way, they can also develop behavioral skills based on what their developmental goals are at that point in time. 

You can read more about the developers behind the app through this TAL AppyChat and watch some videos featuring AutisMate here:

All Things Digital:

What I love:

 ( Detailed Tutorials can be accessed by pressing the question mark symbol in the app-additional tutorials and features are being added to go beyond just how to customize the app, they will also will give some clinical instruction in how the app can be used to promote various developmental skills.)

Add  "hotspots" to scenes with options to embed voice and/or a video, story, choice board or schedule.
Hotspots are marked by a shape, a symbol or you can now draw your own custom hotspots of any shape, which is a much appreciated feature.  There are a handful of colors to choose from, and you can make the hotspots visible (outlined, like below, left; semi transparent, like below, right) or invisible.  Another feature I love is the ability to use synthesized voice or a recorded voice. An update expected any day now will include in-app purchases/ access to all 40 Ivona voices.  Learn more about them here:


 Access to premade stories via AutisMate Store.
  Download premade stories. You will have to change your iPad settings to allow in-app purchases temporarily in order to download any materials in the AutisMate store.  Once they have been downloaded, they will be available to insert easily into a hot spot. The current content library, as of February 2013, should be looked at as a "preview" as the developers have stated there is much more content planned in the future.

Pull up Scenes by GPS location.
You can easily link a visual scene to an existing GPS location for quick access.

Make Visual Schedules with a Check-off and Reward System.
Schedules can be accessed by tapping the 1-2-3 Star symbol in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. You can even embed videos and stories into a step in the schedule as well. This way you can model each step within a step or do a task analysis of a specific step with a story too. 

You can share grids, scenes and schedules with other users of AutisMate through the Settings tab. This is a wonderful feature, especially for a school setting -support staff and parents can have access to a child's visual support and communication system and everyone can be on the same page. You can share through email or through iTunes.

Communication System/ AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication)

Adjustable grid size.
The size of the grids can be adjusted.  There can be as few as 4 choices displayed (2 rows by 2 columns) or as many as 40 choices (5 rows by 8 columns).  The user scrolls up/down to access any additional buttons off the screen.

To change the grid size in Communication mode, tap the tiny pencil symbol in the upper hand corner. Enter the editing passcode (default is 1111) and then tap the large pencil symbol in the lower left hand corner- choose "Change Grid Dimensions".  Here are a few possibilities below:

Adjustable grid spacing.
You can also adjust the spacing between buttons as well by sliding the button in the left hand top corner to the left for wider spacing or to the right for closer spacing.


Change location of buttons on a grid easily.
Hold down the buttons until they shake, then drag them where you want them.

Edit Mode requires password.
Which is always a good thing if you don't want all your hard work erased.

A variety of button features.
Image options- You can set the image by adding a symbol from the extensive symbol library, using an image of your own from the photo library, or by taking a new image from the app itself.
Autoreturn- choose this to make a button go back to the previous screen.
Color options for buttons-  (black, blue, green, orange, red or yellow - see Wish List)
Hide Buttons- You can hide a button or buttons on a grid if you don't want it to show. In edit mode, click on the button, choose Hide. 

Change Users easily.
You can make multiple User profiles, which is perfect for an educational setting, or for families with multiple users.

Change grids easily.
You can make multiple grids for a User and easily switch back and forth between your created grids by tapping the settings wheel symbol, then choosing "Change Grid Vocabulary".

Wish List: (This app has been recently updated; there are MANY recent improvements that address some features on this wish list, please consult the description in the iTunes App Store.  AutisMate even has WORD PREDICTION now, yes!)

 An option of 1 row by 1 column for grids (a single button on the screen).  Developer Comment- New request: we will incorporate into future update.

Options for changing label and image size within the buttons. Developer Comment: Already planned, to be released in a few weeks along with more grid customization features (e.g., background colors of buttons and background of the app itself)

Text-only buttons- currently you must assign an image to each button.  A text-only option would be useful for literacy activities and to make quick buttons for choices or schedule items for my own literate child. It would also be useful to label items or people in visual scenes.  I noticed you can add a text only button when adding a button to a choiceboard, but the font is very tiny in this case.  Developer Comment: All of these feature requests are already planned and will be rolled out in a few weeks to 1-2 months.

More editing features: A cropping tool for pictures added.  More color options for buttons, perhaps via a color picker with preset favorites.  Developer Comment: These are new requests, and we will add them.  An option to fill buttons with the color (currently you can assign the border color).  And perhaps an Internet image search feature could be added too? Both of these are already planned and will be released very soon.

Size!  Perhaps there could be options to limit photo quality to cut down on storage size.  With the photos and books I have downloaded to the app, it now occupies 1 gb of space!  Developer Comment: New request and great suggestion! We are exploring multiple solutions to the size / space issues.

The default passcode for editing is listed in the main settings of the iPad. While this is useful for caregivers who have forgotten the passcode, I know some very clever users who would find that number and know what to do with it.  The developer is working on a solution.

I put a visual scene in the wrong location.  Is there a way to move it to the right location? My only options seem to be "Delete" or "Rename", but not "change location", or something to that effect. Developer Comment: The current way to do this is to import the scene to your iTunes and then download the scene back into a new location. It's not very intuitive and we are working to make it more clear. Here are instructions from the 1.0 version, which are pretty much the same for the 2.0:

COMPLETED Enter for a code of AutisMate through the Rafflecopter link below:  


  1. AutisMate has been updated! Per iTunes description:

    What's New in Version 2.0.2

    Search engine for real images added to all image selection menus. Only non-copyrighted public domain image search results are shown.

    Improved symbol search algorithm makes it easier to find the symbols you are looking for.

    You can now choose symbols or custom outlines as hotspots for stories/schedules.

    Added the ability to move tasks in schedules using tap and hold, as well as adding new tasks between existing tasks.

    You can now add schedules previously created in the visual schedule section to hotspots in scenes.

    Sentence builder can be hidden if you would prefer to only use the scenes and schedules.

    New english voices available for purchase in the AutisMate Content Library

    Numerous bug fixes

  2. What has happened to AutisMate? I can't find it anywhere!