Using technology in speech and language therapy
By Dan Allard
Technology can be a great help in speech and language therapy. But how do you choose the right apps and make sure you're using them effectively? Here are our top tips...
1. Focus on the need, not the opportunity
It's easy to be seduced by a whizzy new app. But it's important to take a step back and think about whether it really meets the needs of your clients. You should start with what you're trying to achieve and make sure the app has the potential to make that task more easy or effective. It's also important to make sure the app is age-appropriate.
2. Check the evidence
It's easy to find new apps by searching the Apple or Google stores but before you click the download button, do some research to make sure the app has bona fide credentials. Look for blogs or reviews from reliable experts. Visit the developer's website to find out more about them and see if the app is endorsed or approved by the NHS or other organisations. Talk to other speech and language therapists to see if they're using the app effectively.
3. Empower children with AAC
Communication apps can enable a tablet to act as an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device. This can make it a valuable tool to help a non-verbal child communicate. However, before you use an app with a particular client, it's a good idea to get an AAC specialist to carry out an assessment. Traditional, low-tech AAC may be more appropriate for certain individuals.
4. Think about ease of use
Before you commit to using a speech and language therapy app, take the time to consider how user-friendly it is. If it's well-designed and intuitive, it's much more likely to engage the child or adult you're working with. It's also worth checking whether the app allows you to personalise or adapt it in any way to meet specific needs. This can be a big plus point.
5. Does the app track progress?
As a speech and language therapist, you'll be aware of the importance of setting goals and measuring progress. Therefore, when you're evaluating an app, it's worth checking out it's monitoring and reporting capabilities. For example, can you get the data you need in the right format, and are you able to download it or email it if you want to?
6. Weigh up the pros and cons
There can be big benefits in using technology in speech and language therapy roles, such as cost and time savings. However, there are also potential disadvantages to take into account. Is the up-front cost of the app worth the investment in the long-term? Do you need to budget for updates and upgrades? Could the app be inadvertently misused by parents or carers? What kind of training and support is available? Is the app appropriate for UK users? If it was developed in the USA, it may use voice-over with an American accent and US vocabulary.
If an app stores any information about the client, you'll need to ensure that confidentiality and data protection protocols are in place. Access should be passworded and you should tell the client (or their parent in the case of a child) what, where and how the data will be stored.
We've previously shared some adult speech and language therapy resources and some children's speech and language therapy resources which may be a good place to start. We have also written a series of blogs around speech and language therapy tools and your speech and language therapy career.