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Speech and Hearing Perspectives

No App for That

Published November 6, 2015 7:30 AM by Speech Merion

By Tamer Abouras

Back in 1986, Ferris Bueller told us “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” However true that fictional character’s now nearly 30-year-old statement was at the time, it seems absolutely prophetic when applied to modern times and technology.

Consider yesterday’s news, where Twitter decided it would be trading in its “favorite” button for a heart, mimicking what Instagram already employs. The “favorite” feature was introduced fewer than five years ago and was intended to compete with Facebook’s “like” button, which was itself only two years old at the time of the favorite’s introduction.

Now the favorites are all gone, Twitter is in dire straits and there are probably hotshots everywhere the Bay Area to Brooklyn attempting to dream up the app that’ll swoop in to fill its void and be the next big thing. The point is, technology has become such a deeply entrenched function of our lives, it not only streamlines the ways in which we do things, but devices and apps also literally go from cradle to grave in a matter of years; the average house pet probably lives through at least five of these cycles.

SEE ALSO: All About Apps

In the world of speech-language pathology, apps have emerged in recent years as an increasingly popular tool to help children with communicative disorders help to better articulate themselves and overcome whatever their stumbling blocks happen to be. For all the convenience of downloading a program that’s free or costs a nominal amount, though, Janesville, Wisconsin’s Dana Brown, M.S., CCC-SLP and Emily Kieck MS, CCC-SLP say that there isn’t a single one that can take the place of parents sitting down and just talking with their kids.

Long considered an essential supplement to speech therapy, they caution parents who may be developing an overreliance on apps in place of practicing therapies and speech techniques with their children themselves.

“ … Neuroscience shows young children need actual real person-to-person conversations. It's critical for language development. Passive video presentations aren't the same as actual interaction. There's no substitute for actual real, organic conversations and exchanges,” Kieck said.

Brown suggested that exposing children to new vocabulary words is another immensely effective way to develop communication skills, in a manner that apps simply may not be able to.

“I think it is just important for parents, like if you are doing something on your phone, maybe you're ordering something online, talking about what you're buying and why you need it and introducing them to different vocabulary words.”

"The exposure piece, I think, is huge. You don't even have to have them repeating what you're saying. Just adding a little bit more every time until they are ready to speak in sentences gets them to talk about what they see and what they're doing, and that's huge."

Life definitely moves a bit faster than it did in the time of Ferris Bueller. And inasmuch as it comes off like unsolicited advice from a grandparent, one thing is empirically true about modern technology: on the subject of replacing vital, face-to-face human interaction, there really isn’t an app for that.

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