In recent months there’s been a lot of conversation in the Youth Services world about apps. Tablets loaded with pre-selected apps are available to users of some libraries, either on-site or for circulation. A long thread on the alsc-l listserv presented a number of strongly held opinions about the advisability of using apps during storytimes. Librarians are looking at the possibility of reviewing apps for developers and putting our expert imprimatur on their content and value, just as we already do for books and other formats. Regardless of where one stands on the issue of the best way to incorporate apps into services and programs for children, librarians seem to agree that they are important and they are here to stay.
I believe that this conversation is timely and useful, but incomplete unless we expand it to include a discussion of how librarians can use apps with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The popular media and the ASD blogosphere is full of references to the amazing ways in which children with ASD have embraced tablet computers and apps, and these devices are taking the place of more expensive and cumbersome assistive technology. A number of developers are creating high-quality apps that are specifically designed for children with ASD. Other apps, written for the general population, are appealing to and useful for these kids. With the incidence of ASD at 1 in 88, we all need to think about how we are working with these children in our communities, and apps can play an important role.