New technology has opened a new arena of communication for SLPs and their patients. Tablet computers, like the Apple iPad, Blackberry Playbook, Google Android and the very affordable models like Kindle Fire and HP Touchpad have raised the bar on accessibility and function. Easy to use touch screens allow children with disabilities to participate in their own care in session and reinforce those lessons at home in a fun and appealing manner. Interactive, user-friendly applications, commonly shortened to “apps” are designed to take advantage of the technology and of the tremendous popularity of tablets.
There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of apps that might be considered useful, some designed specifically for SLP therapy, others with more general appeal that might be incorporated. Depending on the patient’s age, ability and specific needs, different apps may be chosen to enhance learning. When deciding what apps to incorporate into a speech therapy session or action plan for home reinforcement, there are several things to consider. Some excellent starting points are:
1 Will this app be compatible with the type of tablet owned by the school or the child? Many apps will work with iPad but not Android. Knowing the available technology is the first important step to an effective treatment plan.
2 Is a technology solution appropriate for this child? Does the child have the necessary hardware, and will the parents participate? Is cost a factor? Most apps are low-cost, but cost could still be a consideration.
3 Will the therapy sessions be in a group setting involving interaction with other children or adults, or will apps for the child to use alone more appropriate? Some apps will be inappropriate for group interaction or individual use, and some will work for either.
4 Does the app meet the goals set for your patient? Will the app hold the child’s interest and enhance learning?
5 Is the app extensible? Learning enhancement should be progressive as the child gains skills. How far can the app take the child before it needs to be upgraded or replaced? Is it a good value for the cost? Will the app require frequent upgrades?
6 How will you be able to translate the skills gained from the app to create real-life solutions?
Set a time limit
Video or computer use can be addictive and become unhealthy if abused. Set a time limit for therapy sessions and practice sessions and impress upon your students that it is important to use this technology appropriately and avoid spending too much time glued to the screen. Androids, iPads and other tablet computers are great speech therapy session tools if they are not overused to the point of distraction.