It is my pleasure to introduce guest blogger,  Katie Kelley, a speech language pathologist whose insightful reviews of the best apps for use in therapy give a fresh perspective on how we can optimize our work with children with special needs. See her full bio below.

Conversation Builder has made my list of top autism apps for sure.  I am currently using the Basic Conversation Builder with my students with autism ranging in age from kindergarten to 5th grade.   When using this app a picture of a social situation is presented followed by a verbal prompt, “How would you start this conversation?”  The user is then either asked to record an independent response or select from 3 possible written responses and record, depending on settings you choose.  Conversations can target initiating or responding, can be 4 or 8 exchanges and group or individual conversations.  Conversations are recorded and can be played back, emailed and saved.  This is a great way of sharing with parents!  Another great feature is that you can create user profiles with names, ages and interests.   Those details are then included in written prompts during the conversation.  This targets the difficulties many students with autism have with refraining from talking about preferred topics.  For example, for a student who loves Kirby, one of the written choices might state,  “I like Kirby.”   If a student selects this choice, the app will prompt them that this was not an appropriate response.

I have been using this app in small groups of 2-4 students.  I have students each take a turn and then pass the iPad along.  This requires them to follow along with the conversation as the iPad is passed.  If a student selects an inappropriate response or initiation, we stop and discuss why that response might have been unexpected.


  • Great pictures with a lot of variety in social situations
  • Creative prompts that target very appropriate difficulties for students with autism (fact sharing, perseveration on specific topics, off topic remarks and difficulty asking questions)
  • Naturally flowing conversations are created
  • Settings allow for use with students with varying abilities (more support/less support)
  • Allows user to target initiating and responding
  • Recording features allows students to listen to themselves and others model appropriate conversational turn taking.
  • Email feature allows parents to be involved with therapy.
  • Affordable at $5.99


  • I wish I could scroll through pictures more easily in order to pick specific ones.


Last year Katie received a grant to purchase an iPad for use with students with speech, language and social communication delays.  Outcomes have shown that when using the iPad students show not only a significant increase in their attention and engagement during therapy but also demonstrate measurable increases in their progress towards language and social communication goals.  She currently reviews iPad apps and offers tips on how to use those apps to maximize language development with kids with communication disorders at