How are Apps and Technology Used in Speech-Language Pathology?
Technology is a wonderful thing and we are seeing it used more and more in speech-language pathology practices. Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) are using computers, tablets, smart phones, smart boards, and more in speech therapy for a variety of purposes.
Parents are able to download apps and computer games to help their children practice their speech and language skills at home. Some speech-language therapy services are even being conducted over the internet through video conferencing platforms like “Skype”. Children also have easier access to alternative and augmentative communication devices through use of apps that are less expensive than their dedicated device counterparts.
A Word of Caution with Apps and Technology
Although apps and technology are in many ways making it easier to improve speech and language skills, there are also some dangers to be aware of. These words of advice will help you avoid some common pitfalls when using technology with these children.
1. Be Careful of Too Much Screen Time
More and more research is coming out showing that large amounts of screen time can be detrimental to young children, especially those who already suffer from speech and language delays. Here is more information about screen time and language development:
Waiting Cards: Language-Boosting Alternatives for Screen Time: So many times we hand over technology when a child needs to wait. Learn how to teach kids to wait using waiting cards.
2. Choose the Target Skill First, Then the Technology
Does this sound familiar? “Oh cool, a new app! Let’s see, who could I use this for?” It’s very easy to get excited about a new app, game, or technology and want to try to find a use for it. However, it is very important to think about the child before the technology.
When you are planning a session (or planning something to do at home), you should start by thinking “What is the target skill that I want the child to demonstrate”. After you decide on a skill, think about how you will teach or practice it.
Then, and only then, you can take a look at the technology you have and see if it would fit into that session. If not, then maybe you should save that app for another time. ALWAYS start with the child’s goals and skills in mind and then choose the activity afterwards.
3. Technology is the Therapist’s (or Parent’s) Tool, Not Her Replacement
There are no apps, games, or devices out there that will allow you to simply place a child in front of them and have the child fix all of his speech and language problems without assistance. They don’t exist. Don’t try to find them.
You can’t just give your child the app and assume he’ll learn the skill. Children need face-to-face interaction in order to learn to communicate. Children need feedback about how they’re doing and technology only has a limited ability to provide such feedback.
If you are using an app, game, or technological device with a child to teach or practice speech and language skills, make sure that you are sitting right there with the child. Talk about how the child’s doing. Ask the child to repeat or rephrase what the app/game has shown him so you know he understood. Have the child try the same task without the technology to see if he can do it in other settings as well. You need to be as much of a part of the session as the technology, if not much, much more.
How to Use Technology in Speech Therapy Sessions
There are tons of fun ways to use technology in speech therapy session and you shouldn’t let my words of caution scare you off. Technology can be highly motivating for children and there are many cool ways to incorporate it into your sessions. Here are a few activities and apps that I have found helpful:
Using Apps for AAC
There are several apps on the market now that will turn your tablet computer into an Augmentative/Alternative Communication (AAC) device. This device will speak a message for a child when he pushes a button or series of buttons. These are used for children who are unable to use spoken speech to communicate. Here are some resources for children using AAC apps:
Need More Help?
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