How digital learning apps are supporting neurodiversity

Six things to consider when choosing tech for your family (and how to make it safer)


Our six expert tips will empower parents to choose the right tech for their growing kids while safeguarding their digital adventures

What do Bill Gates, Emma Watson and Greta Thunberg have in common (you know, apart from their worldwide fame, and wild success)? They’re all neurodivergent.

That’s an umbrella term to describe the idea that people experience and interact with the world in many different ways—encompassing autism, ADHD, ADD, dyscalculia, dyslexia, dyspraxia and more. Around one in seven of us can proudly lay claim to the label. Take any professional field—from tech to film via environmental activism—and among its highest achievers you’ll find some neurodivergence. Great minds, it turns out, do not think alike.

The trouble is, when your brain processes and acquires information in unconventional ways, classrooms can be tricky environments and school does not always make you feel like the superhero you are.

If you want to bring learning alive for your neurodivergent child, then we have good news. A growing number of tech solutions are evolving to help you support their personal superpowers.


Person using their phone while doing homework 

Revolutionising reading


Maybe your kid interprets the world through wildly imaginative drawings? Or perhaps they’re a livewire—always on the move, exploring new facts and thoughts in a tactile way? There’s no wrong way to learn, but reading is a window into new worlds for kids, taking them on journeys of self-expression and discovery. Thankfully, there are ways to bring the written word alive for readers of all ages and stages.

Reading pens, for example, are small discreet devices (they really do look just like pens) that scan the printed text on a page and read it aloud to whoever is using them, via earphones. Meanwhile, text-to-speech apps like Peech (free with in-app purchases) enable students to scan PDFs, articles or the pages of books and them listen to them as audio.

Then there’s Microsoft’s Immersive Reader. If you have an EE Connected Device Smart Plan, you’ll already have free access to Microsoft 365 and all the latest Office Premium apps from Word to Excel and PowerPoint. But you may not know there’s a free tool within each that uses proven techniques to improve reading and writing—whatever your age or ability.

Kids can use Immersive Reader to have text read aloud to them, each word highlighted as it is spoken. They can break the words into syllables, or click on a word to pull up a picture of the thing it represents, all while the word is spoken for multi-sensory processing. If visual crowding is a challenge, they can enlarge the font size and spacing or change the background colour, or ask Immersive Reader to show just one line of text at a time. It’s a genuine game changer.


Text-to-speech apps can help bring words to life

Super-charge their schoolwork


If spelling is a struggle, Sir Linkalot is a knight in shining armour for primary school kids (and parents). The app uses funny animated videos and mnemonics to break down tricky spellings and lodge them firmly in the memories of visual and auditory learners (that’s those of us who learn best by watching or hearing). There are also games and quizzes, for those who prefer their learning to be super interactive. Overall, kids find their spelling scores improve by 70%, but that rockets up to 150% among those who find conventional learning tricky. A subscription costs £49.99 a year.

Does your brain struggle to juggle numbers? Then you’re far from alone. Roughly 35% of the population experience math difficulties and, according to a recent survey, 47% of parents have maths anxiety when it comes to helping their kids with homework. Help is at hand, however. Fables World is a fantastic app to help younger visual and interactive (or kinaesthetic) learners get to grips with their times tables, sums and even telling the time. Each number is brought to life with its own animated character; each maths problem has a short, funny story to jog your memory. Subscriptions start at £15 a month.

For secondary school children, meanwhile, Math Assistant in Microsoft OneNote includes a host of tools to suit all learning styles. Write or type a maths problem, and it will walk you through the steps for solving it at your own, individual pace. When you’re done, you can even take an AI-generated quiz on the same maths subject, then get immediate feedback on where you aced it, and where you need a little extra help.

However your children learn best, and whatever subject you’re supercharging, BBC Bitesize is a brilliant resource to help with homework, revision and learning from KS1 to GCSE. It contains a treasure trove of videos and visual aids for visual learners, audio content for those who learn best by listening (and those who like to move about while doing so), and even quizzes.


VR technology can boost immersion in children's learning

Whole galaxies of learning, beyond the school gates


So much of your kid’s learning happens outside the classroom, in their real world experiences and interactions. Today, they can immerse themselves in virtual realms too.

Educational VR content can work wonders for kids who struggle to focus at their desk or on books. If your neurodivergent child loves science or history topics, check out the BBC’s free VR content. They can go out on assignment with an Africa correspondent, flying above the river Nile and inspecting its dam. They could become one of Emmeline Pankhurst’s suffragettes, or repair damage to the International Space Station while floating 240 miles above the Earth in space.

Fancy swimming with sealions instead? Ocean Rift (available on Steam and Meta) is the world’s first virtual reality aquatic safari park—perfect for budding conservationists.

Discovery VR brings the Discovery Channel’s science, technology, nature content alive, while Google Expeditions lets kids take field trips through geography, natural history, science and technology, just by putting on a pair of goggles.

We haven’t even pressed the button on gaming yet. EE’s partner Internet Matters—a not-for-profit that helps parents ensure their kids get the best out of the online world—has created a guide to amazing games for families. All are chosen by experts and gently introduce concepts from physics to falling in love. Your child will be learning without even knowing it. Result.

EE GameSmart also helps demystify the world of gaming for parents, helping you to create positive shared experiences with your children. With jargon busters, content walkthroughs and gameplay hints and tips, feel ready to embrace the world of gaming. Whether exploring the Arctic through VR or sound, tech opens up new ways to learn for neurodivergent little minds. Embracing it could change a life.

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