For busy clinicians, it can be a challenge to spend the time investigating new therapy techniques when there is already a familiar and comfortable repertoire of materials. Keeping up with the rapid changes in technology can feel overwhelming. In Part 1 of our 7-part series entitled “Getting Started with Apps in Speech Therapy,” we bring you information on why speech-language professionals should be interested in learning more about using apps or tablets in speech therapy. If you’re feeling under-resourced, over-worked, or disinterested, please join us as we try to answer the question ‘why bother?’ when it comes to adding technology to your practice.
In no particular order, here are the top 10 reasons why you should consider using apps in therapy:
1) Incredible Built-in Tools
A touch-screen tablet with only the basic apps gives you a camera, audio recorder, video player, video camera, maps of the world, email, the Internet, video phone calls, stopwatch, alarm clock, photo album, calendar, notepad, to-do list, address book, music player, and e-book reader. All of this weighs about a pound and is the size of a pad of paper. Think how many therapy goals you can address with each one of those features!
2) Access the World of Apps
Beyond the built-in features, there are thousands of apps that add value to your tablet for both professional utility and patient care. There’s an app that provides a cueing hierarchy for word retrieval. There’s an app that customizes word lists based on sounds. There’s an app that calculates time intervals for spaced retrieval memory training. There’s a reason Apple said “there’s an app for that.”
3) Saves Time
When nearly all of your materials are so portable and convenient, you’ll spend less time at the photocopier and running back and forth between rooms. You won’t have to haul around heavy materials any more. You won’t even have to take data or write the report when using some apps. Under pressure to use every minute of your day meaningfully with clients, you’ll appreciate these little time-savers. Depending on your facility’s record-keeping software, you may even be able to do point-of-service electronic documentation with clients weighing in on their own progress and goals.
4) Allows You to Focus on Your Client
When you don’t have to worry about the little things in therapy, you start to notice more about your client. You can watch how they approach problems and where their eyes go on the screen; you can allow them to control when they’re ready for the next challenge and empower them to help themselves. You are freed up to use your skill set in more meaningful ways than sorting through picture cards or tallying data.
5) Evidence-Based Practice
There is a large body of evidence supporting the use of computers in speech therapy, and a tablet is a small computer. Software for these tablets is more intuitive, more specialized, and more affordable than ever before. There is growing evidence that using tablets in therapy is efficacious. There are many evidence-based apps available, and the tablet replicates many of the tools for evidence-based techniques you’re already using in therapy.
6) Functional Therapy
If you’re someone who tries to make therapy as functional as possible, then using technology is perfect for you. Many of your clients are already using smartphones, tablets, and laptops to read the news, check the weather, pay bills, see pictures of family, send emails, and get directions. Work on these meaningful goals with them, adding techniques or apps to compensate for language, speech, or cognitive problems.
Learn how to use the built-in accessibility tools on the iPad so you can teach your clients.
7) The Way of the Future
Do you use a smartphone yourself? 64% of American adults do. 42% own a tablet computer as of last year, with numbers only set to increase as today’s power users grow older and a new generation of digital natives grows up. These users will want to maintain their connected lifestyles, so therapists must be ready to assist with those goals. Older clients, whether tech-savvy or not, can still benefit from the biofeedback or stimuli shown to them on a tablet.
8) Saves Money
How can a high-tech gadget, accessories, and apps save you or your facility money? Add up the cost of each of the gadgets mentioned in #1 above. Now add in the cost of your time that will be saved, the photocopying you aren’t doing, and the increased effectiveness of your therapy, and suddenly the $1000 or so you’ll need to be well-equipped isn’t so high. In fact, it’s a third of the cost of a simple digital camcorder 20 years ago. Your apps won’t wear out or break in the same way as paper materials, and updates are provided for free. The costly software you used to use on the computer is also more affordable in app format. Many apps are free, at least to try.
Download a sample letter to help you make the case for funding an iPad at your workplace.
It’s embarrassing to show clients photos cards of people exercising in pink spandex or ask them to match up the pictures of ashtrays. It’s frustrating to find new cassette tapes for speech samples or have old videos that you can’t show because the last VHS player broke. Vintage may be cool, but it’s often not practical. Apps are modern and can be downloaded instantly. No more waiting to place an order and have it delivered. If you need a metronome app for your next client, it takes less than a minute to find and install one.
Probably the most important reason to use technology is your clients. These other reasons are mostly about you – your time, convenience, and professional ethics. But the whole reason you’re providing therapy, and care about how to do it, is because you want your clients to get better faster. You want them to have sufficient intensity, repetition, salience, interest, and experience to change their neural networks.
Perhaps your clients don’t need technology to learn the techniques and exercises in your office, but you need to make sure they have the opportunity to practice once they leave. Apps can give your clients exercises, home programs, reminders, stimuli, and motivation to keep working on their goals between sessions. They think speech therapy software can help them improve, but their therapists aren’t always helping them find the right tools. There are many resources available for you to learn how to support them.
Time to Get Started
Mobile technology is a very powerful tool for speech therapy with a world of potential. Apps have their limitations; they are tools for therapy, and as with anything, some will be better than others. Tablets may present privacy and infection control concerns, and they require maintenance. There is also the proper training of clinicians and clients to consider to prevent misuse. Technology is certainly not right for every client or every goal. However, taking all of that into account, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks in nearly every case. Let us help guide you as you get started.
Over the next few months we’ll bring you useful information to help professional & home users know where to begin. Part 2 in this 7-part series of “Getting Started with Apps in Speech Therapy” will offer reasons why stroke survivors, their families, or any home user of apps, should seriously consider using technology as a part of the recovery process. In future posts, you’ll learn about iPad & app essentials, how to find & evaluate apps, and how to make the most of apps at home & in the clinic. Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter so you won’t miss a thing!
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