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Speaking of Apps

Top 5 Reasons Why Tablets Fail in Speech Therapy

Published May 5, 2014 7:59 AM by Megan Sutton

Maybe you've heard that tablets are a game-changer in speech therapy, that no SLP should be without a touch-screen device, or that clients make faster progress with tablet-based home programs. Those statements may be true, but for all the success stories, there will be people who have not had a positive experience. Here we'll look at five reasons why attempts to integrate a tablet into therapy may fail.

1. The wrong tablet

While most tablets are perfectly adequate for browsing the web, managing email, and other basic functions, not all tablets have access to the same apps for therapy. Apple's App Store has far and away the best selection of apps for speech therapy, which makes the Apple iPad tablet the best choice. Clinicians and clients who choose Android tablets, the Microsoft Surface, or other brands will almost certainly face some buyers remorse when they see an app they want that is only available for iOS.

For advice on how to select a tablet, re-visit this post from last March.

2. The wrong apps

Even after you spring for an Apple device, you still need to download the best apps. Some might be free, and others will cost money. Small budgets, and the misconception that apps should be free, prevent some SLPs and clients from downloading anything but free apps. A very creative clinician can likely repurpose inexpensive apps to meet therapy goals; however, for the most common and specialized speech therapy goals, there are many wonderful paid apps designed by SLPs that will instantly add efficiency and value to your routine. If clients are using apps outside your sessions, they will need apps that guide them through their practice without you. After spending hundreds on a device, it's worth a bit more to make sure it's optimized for therapy.

Look back through older posts on this blog for recommended apps to get you started.

3. Using apps the wrong way

If you expect to place the iPad in front of a client and see immediate results, think again. Clinicians can use apps to provide stimuli, take data, and provide biofeedback, but the skilled job of delivering therapy is still 100% human. Take advantage of the freedom you get from not flipping pages, selecting photo cards, and making tally marks. Use this freedom to spend more time selecting the right tasks, making more qualitative observations, and providing specific feedback to improve the communication behavior. If you're using apps and find you're not actively doing anything, you're probably using them wrong.

4. No Internet access

Many of the great features of tablets rely on an Internet connection: web browsing, email, video chats, translation, voice dictation, and social games, to name a few. Likewise, some therapy apps require a connection to log into a central server. If there is no Wi-Fi at your workplace, you may want to consider a data-enabled device and a data subscription plan. If the monthly expense of data isn't in the budget, or if you already have a Wi-Fi-only tablet, you will want to make sure the apps you use in therapy do not require connectivity. Also, be sure to have a plan around how you will download new apps and update existing ones.

5. Not enough training or support
 


Clients and clinicians alike need training and support to implement any new program. It's not enough to simply purchase a device and good apps, connect to the Internet, and expect to have a successful experience. All users need time to explore the device, learn to use each app and adjust any settings, and feel comfortable using the tablet. Even basic tablet operations such as charging, adjusting volume, and opening an app may be very challenging for clients with brain injuries, older users, or technophobes. Any SLP recommending an app for a client to use at home should plan for training time in sessions. Many clinicians and clients will have a tech-savvy colleague or family member, but for those who don't, lack of training could be the No. 1 reason why tablets go unused. Before buying or recommending purchase, make allowances for the time and resources required to get all users up and running comfortably.

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1 comments

Megan, as you say, a creative clinician may use some apps effectively... yet this does not mean that those same apps should be the ones sent home with clients.  We as clinicians need to select the right apps for clients (just like we need to select the right materials throughout therapy), and need to individualize our therapy for our clients’ needs, goals, and motivations.  There are some great apps out there that allow clinicians to do that, like Constant Therapy, which allows clinicians to select appropriate activities for their clients and set difficulty levels appropriately as well. The Internet is another issue, most certainly.  Clients and families need to be educated on the importance of having accessible wi-fi to have full access to a tablet’s capacities.

Ultimately, your article rings true because it emphasizes the need for clients, families, and clinicians to receive the best training possible. This responsibility falls on both app producing companies, and on us as clinicians.  One of the reasons that apps succeed is that the best app companies provide that support and training to clinicians in a variety of models, whether through in-person trainings, instructional videos, e-mail support, or telephone calls.  App developers need to be open to clinician feedback and provide apps that are client friendly.  This empowers the clinician to use apps with their clients in the clinical setting, and also makes those apps reasonable for patients to use independently at home. If we expect clients to use tablets independently at home, we need to select appropriate apps and train not only our clients, but also their family members on how to use them.  After all, if a client invests in a tablet and accompanying apps, they should be able to use it as much and as effectively as possible.

Sarah May 6, 2014 8:03 AM

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About this Blog


    Speaking of Apps
    Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist
    Setting: Rehabilitation
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