This week we welcome Rachel Wynn of Gray Matter Therapy as a guest blog writer to share her expertise with our readers. Enjoy!

Anyone else remember sitting in their elementary school computer lab playing Oregon Trail? What about listening to the hum of the dial up modem to get online and chat via ICQ or AIM? Or were you involved in some of the first social media sites like Tripod or have a web log on Xanga (even before MySpace entered the picture)?

I do. I am in my 30s and have always wanted to learn the latest in computers. I even remember learning how to do some basic coding on a Macintosh Apple in the 1990s. Because of my age and the cities I have lived in, I am a member of a generation that grew up with computers, video games, and other technology.

As an SLP in the SNF setting, most of my clients aren’t members of that generation. They often do their finances by hand, because they don’t trust computers. Having worked in technology-centered cites, I’ve also had a fair number of patients who outpaced me in adopting new technology. But they are the exception. Many of my clients are members of a generation that have never had to rely on computers. They retired before computers were pervasive in the workplace.

Some elders retired before computers were commonplace

Researchers have been investigating the technology gap for awhile, especially with how quickly technology is changing. This 2004 article about the technology gap is a great example of just how quickly technology changes. The examples are almost comical, but that’s what happens in 11 years in the world of technology.

Client-Centered Versus Clinician-Centered Therapy

As I have considered my clients and their comfort level with technology, I have questioned whether using my iPad and therapy apps is truly client-centered therapy. I am very comfortable with technology and when encountered with a problem, I quickly consider how technology could help me solve that problem. However, as I mentioned, most of my clients aren’t in the same place. (And that’s okay!)

I questioned the ethics of bringing my iPad into therapy. Sure, an iPad can make my job as a clinician much easier (if only to not have to carry big boxes of cards across the building). But what about my patients who are already struggling with cognitive or language impairment? Is it fair to bring in unfamiliar technology, when there is already a communication barrier?

I am excited about using technology, but I wondered if I was putting myself first.

Practically No Explanation Needed

While I was dealing with this internal struggle, I decided to bring my iPad into sessions when I knew my client had minimal experience with technology. After working with a few clients, my mind was made up! Technology didn’t create an additional barrier in my sessions. In fact, it often sparked my clients’ curiosity and become a motivation to participate in therapy. Even then, technology was seldom a distraction.

When I introduce my clients to the iPad, there is minimal explanation needed. I ask if they have ever used an iPad. If they say yes, I ask what they like to do on their iPad. If they say no, I simply explain that it is a little computer and briefly model how to tap on the screen. My explanation doesn’t usually extend beyond that, because it doesn’t need to.

I select apps that are simply designed without distractions, which is why Tactus Therapy apps are a favorite! If I can’t figure out an app in a few minutes, then I don’t use it in therapy. Not because I’m lazy, but because I am looking for apps that are so intuitive that there is minimal chance that the apps will be a barrier to the therapy we’re doing.

iPads are so easy to use, they aren't a barrier to speech therapy for elders

No matter my clients’ age or technology experience, I can usually bring technology into our therapy sessions successfully. After a two-minute introduction to the tablet, we’re back to therapy targeting their client-centered goals with an unfamiliar but integrated piece of technology.

Some of my clients have loved working on the iPad and with apps so much that they have purchased their own tablets. I have even introduced a few to social media, so they can stay connected to family near and far via Facebook.

We’ve moved to a new point in technology where even with no experience, after a quick introduction you can pick it up and use it! It’s about time. Nobody wants a cheat sheet of MS-DOS commands…

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This week Tactus Therapy’s Megan Sutton guest blogs on Gray Matter Therapy about The Ethics of Apps: 5 Principles to Guide the Use of Apps in Speech Therapy. Check it out!

Guest Blogger Bio

Rachel Wynn, MS CCC-SLP is speaker, writer, activist, and speech-language pathologist specializing in geriatric care. She blogs at Gray Matter Therapy, which strives to provide information about geriatric care including functional treatment ideas, recent research, and ethical care. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, or hiking with her dog in Boulder, CO.