Assistive Technology Devices
Last week I posted the first half of my interview
with a trained speech language pathologist who is now using her speech and language skills in a new role, as an Assistive Technology Consultant/ Professional Development Specialist. Today I would like to share the second half of my interview where my guest provides instructive and helpful information for both SLPs and parents who are in the midst of choosing a communication device for a young child.
What are the main communication devices that you provide for children in Early Intervention in your county?
It all depends on the needs of the child. We provide support for low tech communication systems (i.e. a communication board, some type of picture communication system), mid tech communication system (i.e. use of a battery operated device that might require the child or adult to switch communication boards depending on the activity), and high tech communication systems (i.e. products from companies such as Dynavox and Prentke Romich)
As I know you are aware, the most coveted device within the world of speech therapy right now seems to be the iPad. I, myself have written several posts over the past few months about the various ways to use it within the realm of therapy. Do you find that many therapists, parents and even students prefer the iPad and why do you think that is?
I agree the iPad is extremely popular in the world of Assistive Technology at this time. Many people (parents and professionals) are very interested in exploring the use of the iPad for a child with a communication disorder. The iPad has a lot of potential to help students with a wide variety of needs. However, just like any other device/AAC system, the decision to purchase/pursue its use as a viable communication system has to be done within the context of matching the features of the app/device with the needs/strengths of the student. I can think of many cases where the iPad was tried with a student and the data that was collected during the trial did not indicate that it was the best match for that student's communication needs.
Many SLPs are using the iPad in therapy for a wide variety of reasons. For example, rather than carrying a complete set of Webber Articulation Cards, SLPs, download an app called Artic Pix for their students to use in artic therapy. Some SLPs use some of the apps to collect data. As I said, the device has a lot of potential but needs to be used/considered just like any other therapy tool/method. There has to be data that supports its use for that particular child.
As an SLP by trade, how do you feel about using the iPad as a communication device, especially for young children within early intervention?
As I previously stated, the iPad along with a specific app can be a viable communication system for a child but teams must be aware of the features of the device/app and the strengths/needs of the student. Teams need to collect data over a period of time to determine whether the iPad meets the needs of the student. Simply saying the student needs an iPad because a team member read or saw something about the iPad and a particular app was the answer for one student. That story shows that the iPad worked for that particular student at that time. It is imperative that the team conduct an appropriate trial.
Is there another device that you tend to prefer? And why?
I wouldn't say that I prefer one device over another. Again, I work with the team to try to determine the students' needs and then help the team match the features of the system to the needs of the child. Sometimes a low tech picture communication board is the best match for the student. It is all very individualized.
How many devices does the Intermediate Unit own? How many are out on loan at any given time?
That's a good question. Unfortunately, I really couldn't tell you. We have a secretary who manages the lending library.
Do you know what the percentage of children in EI in your district who use a communication device is?
Another good question. I don't know if I could put an accurate percentage on it. There are many teams who are using AAC systems with students that I do not know about because they are not in need of any support from me.
When a therapist needs to submit a letter to an insurance company on behalf of a child hoping to obtain a device of their own, what are the key components that need to be present in order to make the letter effective?
The report needs to contain pertinent medical history as well as information related to any specialized services the student has received to date. There also needs to be detailed information related to the variety of AAC systems that have been used with the student as well as the data that indicates how successful the student was with the use of each type of system. Medical insurance companies also require that there is information in the report related to the fact that the student needs access to this device so that he/she can tell his/her caregivers that he/she is sick or hurt. The child's pediatrician also has to submit a prescription indicating that the child is in need of the device.
Thank you so much for speaking with me. What advice would you like to leave our therapists and parents with regarding choosing a device for a young child?
Perhaps the most important advice that I could give is that SLPs should consider developing some type of AAC system for any child who is on their caseload who is nonverbal or minimally verbal. It is of vital importance that we provide students' with no verbal or minimally oral communication systems an alternate means of communicating as early as possible. I also encourage team members to be open to trying a variety of systems.