Millions of iPhone users around the world use Siri to set alarms, ring friends and find out what the fox says. One thing Apple probably didn’t foresee, is the positive impact for people with autism. Siri is helping people with autism to communicate more effectively, as one mum found out when her son started using the app. With this benefit only just being realised, we look at how people can use this to help their relatives with disabilities… Siri and its benefits Siri acts much in the same way as any other (virtual) personal assistant, but for some it has become much more. Siri is able to find information about specific queries and present it back to the user. With this in mind, we compared three different virtual assistants (OK Google for Android, Cortana for Windows and Siri for Apple) to see which was able to provide relevant, useful information for a range of different queries. Watch the video below to see which did best: The questions were designed to test the virtual personal assistants’ ability to quickly retrieve information, especially niche information that may not be readily available elsewhere: queries about Morse code and flight schedules for example. Although Siri was often slightly slower, this was because it was taking extra time to present the information in a more digestible way– arguably more useful than just presenting a Google search and letting you click on the result you think is most suitable. Siri’s predictability, ability to talk about a single topic for hours on end and, indirectly, its need for the user to enunciate clearly makes it the perfect companion, and one which can help people with autism to practice communication at any time. Lynn Tomkinson, ABLE Scheme Manager for Broadacres Housing Association, says, “I believe that it is a valuable tool which enables communication at a level which is appropriate to the individual. “Communicating with someone with autism can be difficult and every individual has different needs. Siri is useful because it is a device which is non-judgemental, direct and non-emotional (all attributes needed for successful interaction in these situations).” Lynn adds that because it is a device, there are fewer elements of communication for the user to worry about. “Eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, body language can contribute to the individual’s anxiety resulting in difficulties in processing information” she says, “I believe Siri works so well because it is more specific and communicates in short, direct language, which is better than giving broad answers the individual has the potential to misinterpret.” Siri isn’t the only app that can help people with autism. There is an endless stream of apps that are waiting to help and here are just five we picked out to test and try: Autism Apps - Free A list of apps that can help disabled people. It splits them down into categories to make it easier to search and download. FindMe – Free This game encourages children to find people, and helps them practice social skills by adding increasingly more distracting objects around the person they need to find. This helps them to practice attending to people and maintaining focus, rather than looking at distracting objects. AutismXpress Pro- £1.49 This helps children to learn different facial expressions. It has pictures of different emotions and encourages children with autism to interact with the expressions and match them to feelings. This helps the child to understand different emotions and transfer that knowledge to social interactions. Look in my Eyes - £1.99 Look in my Eyes is a game that encourages eye contact in children who find it difficult. It does this by showing the child an image of a face with numbers over the eyes. It then asks the child what number was on the eyes and, if they get it right, they earn money they can use in the game. Proloquo2go - £149.99 An app that uses images and words to help autistic people to communicate. The user can tap on a picture to make the app say the words underneath it, and this enables them to communicate. Although it’s expensive, it has been proven to help thousands of people, and there is a video about the app here. Are you a fan of Siri? What do you think to Siri being able to help people with autism? Let us know your thoughts below….