A game for the iPad has been launched aimed at improving the social skills of children with autism as young as 18 months.

FindMe is a simple game that challenges children to find an onscreen character in different scenarios. Using the iPad’s touch screen, players simply tap the character to move onto the next, more complex level. As the game progresses, children must contend with more distractions on screen. The game is designed to encourage players to focus on other people and their needs, which people with autism find difficult.

Players are rewarded with animations specially designed to appeal to children with autism. App developers and education and informatics researchers from the University of Edinburgh collaborated on the game, which they claim is the first attempt to fuse autism research with iPad gaming. The research was funded by the Nuffield Foundation, a charitable trust. Developers hope that the game will help children with autism practice basic socialising skills before entering nursery or primary school.

Dr Sue Fletcher-Watson, the Nuffield Foundation new career development fellow, said: “Children with autism are often adept with computers. Thanks to the iPad’s touchscreen we can now create games for very young children with autism, when it may benefit them most. We hope our app will be helpful to both children with autism and their families.” The app is the first part in a proposed series of University of Edinburgh research into using new technology to provide support for individuals with autism. FindMe is available for download for free from Apple’s App Store.