Speech Pathologists Can Be Tech-Savvy Too

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Written by: Cristina Blanco

The words “speech language pathology” don’t normally prompt the thought of technology, but maybe they should. It’s becoming a fast reality that technology is becoming more and more prevalent in the field of Speech Language Pathology. When one normally thinks of Speech Therapy, what it is and what it offers, it seems like a strange fit at first. But after exploring all the benefits of integrating technology into Speech Therapy, it’s a wonder why no one thought of this sooner.

To begin with, let’s think of the place that technology holds in the world as we know it. It’s everywhere! It is a rare day that we go without using some sort of technological device. Our cell phones are practically surgically attached to our hands. Our laptops are as present as our shadows. In school, children are expected to know how to research topics on the Internet and hand in typed papers, at younger and younger ages. Technology is working its way into all aspects of our lives. New developments in medicine, breakthroughs in science, are all based on technology. It’s the trend of the future; everything is gravitating in that direction. It shouldn’t come as much of a shock that we are seeing technologies devoted to SLP beginning to emerge.

As technology changes and advances, it is our responsibility to change with the times. To evolve Speech Therapy, we need to be appealing to the children that we are helping. The truth of the matter is, kids now a days are born into a technological world; learning to work an iPhone is becoming almost instinctual. Technology naturally grabs their attention and engages them. It is important that we use this to our benefit in Speech Therapy. Additionally, the kids receiving therapy will be growing up in a world where they will be expected to use technology on a daily basis. It isn’t a bad idea to expose them to what they will need to know how to use in the future.

Thanks to Apple and the invention of the iPhone, iTouch, and especially the iPad, we are seeing a surge in applications (apps) being created specifically for Speech Therapy. These applications are designed for kids, which is apparent in the colorful, fun illustrations and silly sound effects. All this helps to keep the kids excited throughout the process of therapy. The apps aren’t only fun though, they are truly helpful. Some focus exclusively on phonation while others target articulation. But the genius to them is that the kids are motivated to do the exercises because the technological aspect has turned therapy into something fun and enjoyable. You can see an example of an application in use here. This leads me to talk about another favorite technological tool: YouTube. YouTube gives SLP’s access to all sorts of videos, ideas for therapy, fun grammar songs, storybooks turned into digital media, you name it. Through YouTube, the SLP world is able to share resources with one another.

These technological resources in SLP aren’t only helpful to the children, but to the SLP’s themselves. It isn’t only YouTube that affords SLP’s the luxury of sharing resources with one another. This is also true of blogs, just like this one, that lead to a sharing of information and current goings-on in the field. Then there are the apps again. The apps are made for the kids, surely, but the settings were structured for the adults. These app settings are advanced enough to let you add patient profiles into the app, complete with information such as what they are working on presently. The information saves directly to the app and remains stored so that the next time you use the app with the particular patient, you can pick up right where you left off. Some apps allow you to customize the activity: create your own minimal pair flashcards; choose the phoneme that needs to be worked on, etc. You can see a tutorial here, of one application which points out all these tools available to the SLP.

Are there any drawbacks, you ask? As is the fear with all technology, it may lead to a slight tuning out of the real world if not managed properly. At the end of the day, as wonderful and helpful as technology can be, it is simply a machine. It is important to remember that the ultimate goal of Speech Therapy is communication. And communication involves social interaction. The kids need to be reminded that they need to talk to other people. All of these technologies are incredible to use as tools, but as tools only. It is important to stress to the children that it isn’t enough to play with an iPad, but to remember what they worked on using the iPad and apply that in real-life, with real people.

Overall, I am of the opinion that the pros vastly outweigh the cons in regards to incorporating technology into Speech Therapy. Technology is a big deal and it’s making its way into all kinds of fields. It’s time for SLP to embrace it. It’s a sure-fire way to encourage the kids that Speech Therapy is not only helpful and painless, but it can even be fun. These apps are so advanced that it facilitates the SLP’s job as well as the child’s. Even the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) seems to approve. They have a page on their website, here, that discusses educational applications and their role in SLP, complete with advantages and disadvantages, and links to other sites with more information. It appears that technology has shown up to lend a helping hand, so it looks like we’re all about to get tech-savvy.

Tannen, Michael. “Technology’s Emerging Frontier in Speech-Language Pathology, Part 1. ASHAsphere. ASHA. 26 May 2011. http://blog.asha.org/2011/05/26/technologys-emerging-frontier-in- speech-language-pathology-part-1/ 28 May 2012.

Tannen, Michael. “Technology’s Emerging Frontier in Speech-Language Pathology, Part 2 – Resources. ASHAsphere. ASHA. 2 June 2011. http://blog.asha.org/2011/06/02/technologys-emerging-frontier-in- speech-language-pathology-part-2-resources/ 28 May 2012.