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Parents Seek Autism App to Help Child Transition with Less Anxiety

"Is there an app that can help our child move through the day with less anxiety? The tension is worst when there’s something “big” on the schedule like a doctor’s appointment.

Posted by developmental pediatrician Niru Madduri, clinical director of the Center for Child Development at Vanderbilt University’s Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital. Dr. Madduri is also a co-principle investigator for Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network center at Vanderbilt.

I’m happy to report that, yes, we have an app for that. We call it MyRoutine®.

The MyRoutine iPad app was inspired by the successful “hard copy” visual schedule that we’ve long used at our hospital to help our young patients with developmental disabilities move through their medical appointments with less anxiety.

The pictures in our printed visual schedule illustrate a short narrative about what happens during the course of a clinic visit. A child will check in. He’ll sit in the waiting room. A nurse calls his name. During his physical exam, the nurse checks his blood pressure and asks him to stand on a scale, and so on. Each step is depicted by a picture, ending with the child picking out a small toy from our “treasure chest” at the end of the visit.

As you might image, a visual schedule iPad app seemed like a natural progression. With the help of our hospital’s web development team, behavioral specialist David Crnobori and I designed MyRoutine to be both personal and interactive. 

For instance, MyRoutine allows you to take or upload your own photos for each step in a schedule.  We recommend using photos that are familiar to your child. The familiarity will help your child tap into the strength of his or her visual memories. For your child’s upcoming medical appointment, for example, you might upload a picture of his or her doctor.

As MyRoutine users move through the day, they simply tap the picture corresponding to each task they’ve completed. When they do, they get the “happy response” image below.



Parents can also add a sound bite of recorded encouragement. For instance, “Good job, Johnny!”  

I love the expressions of satisfaction I see on children’s faces when they tap that photo and receive the positive feedback. We’ve also seen how using this app gives children a feeling of being more in control of a situation.

Using MyRoutine, you can create routines for home, school, doctor’s appointments and more.  We’ve included several photos suitable for doctor’s appointments to help get you started. Many of our young patients visit several subspecialists on a regular basis. It can help to have a photo for each one in their MyRoutine.

Every day, we witness firsthand how this app helps reduce anxiety. Recently, one mom started to cry during her son’s appointment. “You’re the first person he’s let look in his ears,” she said with relief and amazement. 

We’re very pleased to be offering MyRoutine for free download. You’ll find it in the iTunes store. We hope it will be just the first of many that we develop to help individuals with autism. 

Thank you so much to all of the children and families who continue to inspire and motivate us every day. And special thanks to the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network for supporting our work.

Editor’s note: You can find more information on MyRoutine and more than 450 other user-recommended autism apps using Autism Speaks Autism App Search Engine.

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The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.