With a caseload cap of 55 students and a greater need than she can meet, Katie Millican looks for speech therapy apps and other resources that can keep pace with her demanding workload.
A speech-language pathologist working in the largest elementary school in Wasilla, Alaska, Millican relies on a series of tools to engage with her students, who range from kindergarten to second grade.
Among her resources is a collection of Tactus Therapy apps she uses on her iPad. Although designed for adults recovering from strokes and brain injuries, they’re also great speech therapy apps for kids who struggle with speech and language disorders and developmental delays.
“The apps are really well designed,” says Millican, who uses 9 of the 12 Tactus apps with her students. “And the picture quality is incredible.”
Multitasking with Speech Therapy Apps for Kids
Working most often with groups of 3-5 kids, Millican has become proficient at displaying one image or task in an app and using it to work on a different goal with each child in the group. She might work on categories with one student, for example, on phrases with another, and on the “th” sound with a third.
“Tactus Therapy apps are not just for one purpose. Their use is only limited by your own creativity and ingenuity.” – Katie Millican, M.Ed., CCC-SLP
While this may sound challenging, Millican says it’s far easier than trying to do the work without a speech therapy app, or having to customize activities and pieces of paper.
“With an app, you just turn it on,” she says. “There’s no printing, no cutting, nothing. It’s efficient when you have to work with 50 students each week.”
Using Proven Speech Therapy Apps in New Ways
Let’s look at five ways Millican uses her Tactus Therapy apps that you may find helpful too.
Remember to use the child-friendly setting, to eliminate topics of an adult nature, such as weapons. Look for the gear icon on the home screen to get to the Settings options.
Naming Therapy for Screening
Naming Therapy is a speech therapy app designed to help stroke survivors recall words.
Millican uses it for children whose speech development is delayed. Naming Therapy allows her to:
* Assess their articulation
* Monitor their progress
* Probe their vocabulary.
This helps her see what the kids need and how they’re doing as therapy progresses. “As a screener, it’s a great tool, especially with language,” she explains. “With articulation, it’s easy to assess whether a child needs assistance. You just listen to them, and you can tell if they’re saying it properly.
“But with language, it’s more difficult to tease that out. I can use the Naming Test in Naming Therapy. It gives the child 30 questions, and he can just roll through it. It tells me so much. Just click, click, go, and I can quickly see where the child is, how far he’s come, and what he still needs to work on.”
The speech therapy app’s data-tracking function can motivate older users, but Millican finds that young students get discouraged with scoring. She therefore keeps track of their scores in her notebook.
Category Therapy for Vocabulary
Similar to Naming Therapy, Millican likes to use Category Therapy as a screening tool to help tease out which categories a child needs to work on. She typically uses the speech therapy app to probe understanding of a category-based lesson.
“Understanding categories is a basic language skill and this app offers an explicit way to teach it and monitor progress,” she says. “Usually, I do a lesson on categories first using other materials and then use the app to probe further so I can assess what I need to teach more of.”
Millican finds the Easy setting best for kindergarten students. The Medium setting is more suitable for students in second grade, who benefit from its more specific categories.
Comprehension TherAppy for Exploring Subjects
Millican likes to use Comprehension Therapy to explore subjects in the school curriculum.
“I like that I can take the themed units from the curriculum and add them to the app,” she says. “It gives more meaning to the work we’re doing on language and articulation.”
Taking advantage of customizing the app’s content, Millican will also modify photos and descriptions to match terms commonly used in Alaska. “We’re doing a unit on snow and winter, for example, and I’ve added a picture of a snow machine and labelled it as a snow machine for the noun and snow machining for the verb. They don’t call it snowmobile here.”
The real pictures in the apps provide context to the verbs, making it easier to teach action words, she adds.
Speech FlipBook for Phonological Awareness
While Millican likes the photos in the apps, she values that Speech FlipBook doesn’t include any images. The speech therapy app that’s used to create any single-syllable word is a staple in Millican’s collection. She says she uses it everyday working on letter names and letter sounds.
“The kiddos see the letters and we work on the sounds, then blending sounds together to make words,” she says. “We then use the app to record what they say. They think it’s hilarious listening to themselves.”
While some speech-language pathologists seek out materials with photos for phonological awareness, Millican finds having only letters and recorded sounds encourages the kids to focus better on the letter and its sound rather than the image.
Conversation Therapy for Articulation
Millican uses Conversation Therapy to work on articulation in the context of conversations, especially when the goal is to make the sounds “th” and “s.”
“Those are the most common sounds to work on,” she says. “No matter what picture comes up, if we just have a conversation, I’m going to get those sounds.”
Millican uses the app’s prompts to encourage conversation, rather than simply working on word-finding issues. She finds that this approach engages kids and enhances learning.
She further customizes the app by going into Settings, choosing Customize Content, and eliminating some of the topics that aren’t culturally relevant or appropriate for her students. “Going to a theatre” isn’t easy in a tiny town in Alaska, for example, so Millican deactivates it for this activity.
Otherwise, the app suits her purposes very well. “The pictures are real,” she explains. “You don’t have to guess what they represent. You can’t find an app out there with the same quality pictures.”
Finding Value in Technology
They also make her more efficient. The Tactus Therapy apps quickly paid for themselves by saving her time. “Consider the cost of spending an hour and half each day creating similar materials,” she says. “And you have to do this every day, for every child you see.”
She never hesitated about using speech therapy apps designed for adults with her young students.
“It’s just a matter of how inventive you can be with something,” she says. “I need tools I can open and run with, wherever I need to go. Tactus Therapy apps provide that.”
To find additional information on which Tactus Therapy apps are best suited for school-aged children, visit this dedicated section on our website.
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