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September 7, 2011 / the speech monster

iPad and speech therapy


I have found myself falling in love again with the iPad in the last month. It all started when someone at a school asked me for app recommendations for students with autism…

We’ve always had an iPad; okay, my husband does, but he only uses it on occassion to read academic papers or ebooks when on the go (which isn’t very often) which means I can get to use it quite a bit if I wanted to. I have recommended this device to several people with students or kids with special needs but never really utilized it myself for work…until this past month. AND I LOVE IT. Everyone needs to get on board the iPad NOW! Here is what I whipped up in 30 mins for a school grant submission for iPads (so excuse the misspellings, clumsy expressions!! EEEP!!):

The iPad has been an asset in Education, especially in the area of assisting students with special needs and various learning difficulties. From a Speech-Language Pathologist’s point of view, the interactive features of the iPad 2, which include a video function, is fantastic for providing students with immediate feedback in learning which could be beneficial to a whole range of different students – from typically developing and those with special needs.

For example, when working students with Autism identify and express their emotions through role playing, the video function can provide them with immediate feedback about whether they, or other students, were using the appropriate expressions and emotions in those situations. Other apps that also allow students to interactively match emotions are also available, such as the app “ABA cards, emotions” used in ABA (applied behavioural analysis) therapy that a lot of parents and students have found useful. Another app that has been used extensively in special needs, Proloquo2, which provides students who have difficulties with speech as a way to convert text-to-speech (and doubles up as an Augmentative and Alternative Communication – AAC – device), also features excellent pictures and an interactive and fun way for the teachers, parents, and students to communicate with each other. This would be especially excellent for students with Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy.

Students with language difficulties who need a lot more vibrant visual cues and reinforcements than other children, have also benefitted from some of the apps on the iPad. Apps such as virtual scrapbooking provides the students with instant colourful tools (and cues) to build a story and allows the teacher to provide immediate scaffolding to prompt the student to build on their language. The handy size of the iPad also gives these students a chance to work on this anywhere in the school (or at home).

Recently, I also downloaded an interactive book, the first of its kind, called “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” which the older students with language difficulties loved. This book which is semi-animated like a movie, captivated the students’ imagination and they were motivated to read the book aloud because they wanted to know more. A student who had significant difficulties with story recall was able to provide me with specific and detailed scene by scene recall because he was so enchanted by it. This gave me a breakthrough to understand this student’s abilities – that he was able to recall information with the correct cues in place (visual, auditory, interaction). Again, while a computer could do this, the iPad’s advantage is its physical resemblance of a book, allowing the student to be able to read this anywhere. It can also be helpful when a student with additional needs typically works with different specialists as it can encourage more collaboration between all the parties in involved in the student’s education.

Finally, the iPad has also proved useful when I used it for spelling and literacy therapy with students. While the iPad will not be a complete substitute for pen and paper writing, it has provided another avenue to motivate these students with significant difficulties in spelling, to write and remember their phonics and spelling rules. The iPad has also given the students flexibility to choose how they want to “write” in their answers – using their fingers or the stylus on the touch-screen,  or the removable keyboard? And choice is a really helpful motivator for these students at times. The interactive features and colourful pictures or fonts (and the ability to tweak them to adjust them to the students’ preferences) on some of the apps, such as “Sound Literacy” have also been helpful.

If you’re still on the fence about whether to get the iPad or use it for therapy, think no further. This is the future. I’ve also found some websites particularly helpful to understanding its use and getting good app recommendations:

Exploring the impact of the iPad in schools

Official Apple iPad in education website

GeekSLP app recommendations

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