This advice-column-style blog for SLPs was authored by Pam Marshalla from 2006 to 2015, the archives of which can be explored here. Use the extensive keywords list found in the right-hand column (on mobile: at the bottom of the page) to browse specific topics, or use the search feature to locate specific words or phrases throughout the entire blog.
Q: I want to get your feedback on my experience with speech apps. I am a seasoned professional and I work the old fashioned way –– with toys, games, books, drawing, coloring, etc.. But I have grad student interns who work with me and I always have them show me what they do in therapy with their iPads. At first I was excited (and envious), but then I noticed the kids were engaged with and pressing the screens, but they were not doing much verbal responding, initiating, or imitating. In short, there was not much speech and language work going on. I have noticed that the kids get frustrated when I have suggested that only the therapist handle the iPad. I think this because the kids are used to handling the parent’s smartphones and iPads by themselves. What is your response to this? I do not want to seem out-of-step, but I also know what good therapy should look like. This doesn’t seem to be it.
I have the same concerns you have expressed. There can be a lot of silence associated with the new technologies and this can interfere with the goals and purposes of SL therapy. This is an evolving process and our interaction with these things will change over time. The solutions I see currently are the following––
- Use apps that encourage vocal and verbal output. There are apps with characters that become animated when the child speaks to it, and there are apps that have characters that repeat back what the child says. Use these to encourage output.
- Use an app purely as a reward system like you might any other game. Give him 1 minute on the app activity as a reward for his speech work. This is no different from giving him five shots of a basketball into a hoop as a reward for his participation in the speech activity.
- Don’t assume (as some have) that the apps will be the be-all and end-all of speech and language therapy. Use apps like you would any other book, deck of speech cards, or pencil-and-paper activity. Bring it in and out of therapy as the mood dictates.
- Always remember that our goal is better processing and output. If the app is interfering with either of these, get rid of it for the time being. Introduce it another time to see if the client can handle it while maintaining the level of output you desire from him.