Others help in understanding what facial expressions mean, how to share information about oneself and how to behave in social situations, Wallace said. Most applications are available through the developers' websites and iTunes.
This October, HP is organizing a hackathon called "Hacking Autism" to develop new applications. Unlike a traditional hackathon that limits programming to a set time period, the idea is that this will be more of a catalyst.
"We're crowdsourcing ideas directly from the families, researchers, scientists," said James Taylor, the director of HP's Innovation Program Office. A board of directors will evaluate submissions and pick at least five finalists. HP technologists will be volunteering time to create the actual programs, which will then be made available online.
Although developers are getting feedback on functionality and usefulness, the effectiveness of applications for people with autism spectrum disorders hasn't been scientifically studied yet, Wallace said.
Conley says the responses to TapSpeak have been positive, but he cautions that devices and apps can only do so much. "It's also the parents, the therapists, the whole therapy ecosystem that makes things work for kids."