iPad and Learning Needs

PocketPond delivers incredibly realistic sound and images.

I often get asked about apps for Special Educational Needs – and in schools where I work the iPad has overtaken other options for supporting many pupils’ learning needs. The reasons are many, but the ease of use and the range of apps seems to be key. It quickly becomes a toolkit for staff to use with children with a variety of needs.

There are tools on the iPad which you can use without purchasing apps, but there will always be apps that can support a specific need. For example you could use the iPad to take video of the lesson to support the pupil, or create a visual timetable filled with familiar friends – these sorts of activities just become easier with an integrated device.

There are however loads of specific apps – and here I bring together some that we have found the most useful. It’s worth thinking though that specific subject needs such as times tables learning can be addressed with a focus using games or apps.

Beginning with Explain Everything – this amazing app is perfect for children who struggle with concentration, sentence construction or who may need support to complete tasks.

  • You can record and annotate whole or portions of video, leaving the iPad with the pupil or adult support.
  • They could record their work, for example orally explaining their solution to a problem rather than writing.
  • They (or support) can record their own work, photograph what they have done, use the app to annotate.
  • Specific support such as recording letter formation, or oral sentences for child to use.

The key is that Explain Everything allows you to forward on and use the video so easily, so stills can be printed, video emailed, used in a different app or uploaded to the server.

Apps which allow you to draw and play, such as Sand Drawing (pictured) or Doodle Buddy can be used for motor skills and letter formation. Memory games such as Memory are also good fun

Language and Vocabulary

You can try dictation such as Dragon Dictation – but they can be unreliable. Far more milage can be had from structured language, and there are lots of apps which combine recording with video or story prompts.

Understanding Inferences

Understanding Inferences is one of my favourites, and more so because you can buy the physical cards too. The app allows you to select specific types of inferences as well as multiple players if you want to keep score.




Story Builder, one of many apps from Mobile Education which develop language, is perfect for exploring story, allowing you to record a story sequence verbally with a series of picture prompts. The recorded story could then be used for writing.

There are also plenty of opportunities to use the iPad for conversation, social stories and vocabulary through interactive books and apps such as the Toca Boca range. The Night Zookeeper Drawing Torch app is one which is great for discussion, language and conversation. Using simple instructions and a ‘mission’ style the pupils create elements to the story.

Understanding Emotion

You could create your own flashcards for emotion and behavioural support using versatile app MadPad – which will let you truly personalise the flashcards or use specific apps such as Artikpix to create a unique set of flashcards and language linked images. Other story linked apps such as Positive Penguins can be great fun and support emotion recognition.



The great thing about the iPad is how it can be used as a tool – it can be collaborative or personalised! I hope that this post can be of some inspiration to others!


Further Links


Wandsworth CLC iPad in SEN environment report

Inspiring personal story about the iPad as a communication tool.

Apps for Children With Special Needs

iPad and Personalised Learning


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