Using the iPad as a speech & language therapy tool

Well it's been 3 weeks back at work and I tell you what, speech language pathology is a mighty fun job! If I'm gonna leave my cute baby it sure as heck better be for a job that I love. Lucky for me, I'm an SLP! Thanks to everyone who reads the blog! You're emails and comments are awesome! I'm glad to say I'm back in the blogging world.

The newest development for my speech room this year is that our school district got a grant that bought iPads for all of the SLPs. Isn't that awesome! I've been trying it out in my therapy sessions this week. I have to admit it hasn't "rocked my world" like I thought it would but there are some serious advantages to having an iPad as a tool in therapy. Here is a brief list of pros and cons after this test-run week. Keep in mind I'm new to the iPad. But it's a pretty intuitive device, even for people who are not technologically savvy.

  • Storage solution! The IPAD is a great way to store an incredible amount of therapy stimuli in a small portable device. It's an unfortunate but true fact that most speech pathologists work in tight quarters. That is, if they are lucky enough to even have a room. For example, if you looked at the master map of my school last year, my speech room was labeled as a "closet". I know many SLPs across the country don't even have a room to do therapy in. The ability to carry around a huge variety of material on one small device is a serious advantage that can't be overlooked.
  • Access to A LOT of Materials: There are so many apps out there it can be overwhelming! But it is nice to avoid buying tons of books from Super Duper or Linguisystems or other publications, then wait for them to be shipped to you, then find a place to store them.
  • Easy simple data tracking. Most IPAD apps for SLPs have built in data tracking and a lot of them have the ability to track data for multiple kids at a time. Very cool.
  • Voice Recording and Video Capabilities. We all know self-monitoring is absolutely necessary if the student is going to use targeted skills in their every day life. Voice recordings are among my favorite tools to help a student develop their self-monitoring skills. A lot of the articulation apps have recording features that I really love. I'm also loving the video feature with my language students. I can give them a scenario to role play or record them in actual interactions with friends. It's fun for the kids to see themselves and we can pause and discuss what they did great and what they could do better next time.
  • Conversation Starters at your Fingertips: You can use the iPad for some pretty sweet conversation starters. Just look up kid friendly websites with articles about things they're interested in. Pull up some funny pictures and have your kids describe them. Watch a short video clip and have your students try to role-play it.
  • Motivation: Come on, don't tell me you haven't heard of the game Angry Birds! And if you have been living in denial of the days current obsession with "Apps" believe me, your students haven't. Sure, it's slightly terrifying how "hooked on devices" the world is becoming, but why not use it to your advantage to get some good quality work out of your students. 28 minutes of hard work for a 2 minute game at the end is a pretty good compromise.
  •  Data Holes: This may be my lame, old-fashioned dependence on paper and pens but there are some "holes" in relying on the IPAD to track your data. Sure it is nice to say "yea" or "nay" just by the click of a button and then have that fancy device ring up the percentage as you go. But hopefully nobody depends completely on these cut and dry data trackers. Technology can't take the place of a good speech therapist. One of the things I love most about our profession is that it requires us to always be on our toes, actively thinking about what will benefit our students/clients the most. Adapting our therapy to the needs of the individual kiddo. Listening for patterns, identifying appropriate future goals, etc. For me, it's a lot easier to keep notes on how little Johnny is responding to certain techniques or write a reminder to work on a different goal when I have a piece of paper in front of me. Instead of taking the IPAD from him in the middle of it all and saying, "hold up! I gotta type in a note on this thing." I do have to say, there are some promising data apps out there and I might eat my words as I try them out. But from this week of working with the IPAD I find that either you use the IPAD as your stimuli and take your data on your usual paper logs, or you use the IPAD as your data tracker and have flashcards, games, other things as your therapy stimuli.
  • The "EASY" Planning Trap: SLPs are genius' at "winging it", right? With 80 plus students on your caseload per week there is no way you will plan out every minute of every session with every kid. I sincerely hope that these ready made apps do not encourage any SLPs to become lazy about analyzing their students and adapting to their needs. I guess what I'm really saying is, it is best used as a supplement to therapy, not a replacement. However, I find SLPs as a whole to be a very unlikely group to be lazy.
  • It's Not "Natural": Remember sitting in your graduate courses and hearing your professor emphasize the importance of a "naturalistic" setting. I'm pretty sure the IPAD is the opposite of that "natural" setting your professor was talking about (though it can be used to encourage some great conversation as noted above). It'd be fancy if your student could perfectly repeat a sentence that the IPAD chanted to her but it's useless unless she is talking appropriately with her teachers and friends. 
  • It's Expensive: Remember how we all had to shell out the big money to get our master's degrees but most of us make less than someone with the average 4 year degree? Yeah, we're not made of money. So, if I hadn't been given an iPad to try out I probably wouldn't have the iPad leap right away. The iPad itself would take a large chunk of my monthly paycheck and the cost of the applications can add up quickly. So even though it's pretty neat, I would probably use the money to pay off my student loan instead.
These are just a few of my thoughts on the iPad. It's great, but it didn't change my life. Overall, I'm liking it as a supplement to therapy. I'll write a post on some of my favorite apps soon.

What are you thoughts on the iPad? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Please share!


Suz said...

I am really envious of the ipads...I need to get back to Utah pronto:)

Anonymous said...

Seriously come back! We miss you around here!

Speech Therapist said...

That is awesome and futuristic post. Using the iPad as a speech & language therapy tool.I think in upcoming time iPad is very helpful technique in speech language therapy ...

Anonymous said...

I am usIng your pros list as a basis for my proposal to get an iPad in my district. I edited it to fit my situation, but used your format. Thank you!!! And I hope that's ok?!