Considering the iPad to Improve Communication Skills?

Apple and portable technology, specifically in the form of the iPad, has permanently and profoundly changed the way that I approach speech-language therapy, education and my personal modus operandi!   

Last November, I borrowed a friend’s iPad for a little test-drive.  Within hours, I was sold!  The next day, I shuffled my way over to the Apple Store – prepared for a HUGE ordeal – like getting a new cell phone or a car – to purchase an iPad.  What a surprise, the friendly and knowledgable staff member listened to my needs, shlooked my credit card through his nifty little hand-held money taker and the next thing I knew, I had an iPad and my first Apple product in my hands!  Immediately, I started surfing the App store for apps to use in therapy.  Now the iPad has become an essential tool in every therapy session (I will write more on how and what specific apps I use in future blogs).  If you are parent, educator, or speech-language pathologist who is considering taking the plunge, here are some of the many BENEFITS of using the iPad to facilitate communication.  

1.  ENGAGING – The iPad engages children through all learning modalities – visual, auditory, and tactile!  (Ok – smell and taste are not represented, but I did have a child lick my iPad once!!). The opportunities to touch and swipe keep little hands from being destructive hands!  Most importantly, because I control the iPad, it requires the child to engage with me – enticing them into social and linguistic interaction.

2.  MOTIVATING – My clients of all ages (toddlers through teens) love using the iPad.  Apps provide a platform that invites kids to participate and engage in social communication.  I brought my iPad with me to a preschool screening and the teachers were surprised to see even the most shy children were willing to “use their words” and interact with me for a chance to touch images on a hands-on story app.

3.  BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT – Not only do I use my iPad for learning, I use it as a reinforcer.  “Good listening,” cooperation (ex: “5 minutes of _______ and then we can play Old MacDonald on the iPad”),  and accuracy (ex: “I’m listening for good /l/’s”) are rewarded with time on favorite apps.

4.  ACCESSIBILITY – All of my clients – regardless of age or ability, are able to participate at some level with the iPad through touch or voice.  Because the device is so small, I am able to position it within the child’s reach and visual field.  I often hold the iPad close to my face so that the child can see both the iPad and my face (helps draws their attention to my expressions, articulatory placement cues and increases social interactions).

5.  PORTABILITY – Although I have been using the computer and various programs for some time, it is much harder for me to control the access and manipulate my client’s interactions on the computer, even a small laptop.  The ability to “control” the stimuli is what allows for good therapeutic/learning outcomes.  I can wield the iPad like a puppet – positioning it where I need it for maximum effectiveness or placing the device in or out of the child’s range until I get the targeted response (ex: *holding iPad out of range* “What do you want?”  desired response from child: “I want spider please”, result: *moving iPad in touching range*, child gets to touch the spider and it goes up the water spout!).  Voila!  Natural reinforcement for using language to have needs met!  The other benefit of portability, is that the iPad fits neatly in my hands or purse (a very cute one I picked with iPad dimension in mind) and my therapy materials and I are ready to go.

6. FLEXIBILITY –  I think of my iPad as a giant toolbox in a small case!  Of course,  I have a bevy of apps designed for speech-language therapy and education to work with clients of all ages and needs, but I also use other iPad features throughout my sessions.

  • Instant access to the web allows clients to research information on the spot.
  • Several grade school and adolescent clients use the “notepad” feature to journal about our therapy session which we then email to their parents. (This also provides opportunities to practice sequencing, grammar and spelling skills).
  • The record function allows clients to hear how they sound, which is an invaluable feedback tool!
  •  Skype and FaceTime lets me connect with parents, teachers and clients who can’t make it into the office.
  • I play Words with Friends with two of my clients to improve spelling and vocabulary (must look up all unfamiliar words in the dictionary).
  •  Access to my online clinic management system lets me record data during the session.  By the end the session, the note is complete, sent to the wireless printer and parents go home with a treatment note in hand.

ALL this access in one device has revolutionized my clinical practice!  I now understand why Eve tempted Adam with the Apple… one bite and I was hooked!  Please share how you are using the iPad in therapy or at home!

(*For the record, I do not work for Apple, nor am I a paid endorser.  There are many platforms from which to use apps and stimulate language development, but since I have been using the iPad, I am writing specifically about its use.  My comments and observations can be generalized to other hand-held devices).

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2 thoughts on “Considering the iPad to Improve Communication Skills?

    • I use Clinic Source. It is a web based clinic management software that allows me to do scheduling, billing, keep daily clinic notes, write reports (it has templates with all the most used speech and language assessment tools), keeps a client data base and more. I have been using this system for three years and have been very pleased. I love having a paper free system (any paper records can be scanned in). They have excellent customer service and support. Everything is securely encrypted and HIPPA compliant. Check them out at http://www.clinicsource.com and be sure to let them know that Growing Kids Therapy Center recommended them!

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