Speech therapists are often the first people to work with children in a professional setting. Toddlers who show signs of having difficulty communicating may be sent to a speech therapist long before entering the public education system. For older children or adults, they may be the key to unlocking a patient’s ability to communicate with those around them. As much as speech therapists have to offer, they can’t be everywhere for each patient all the time. Until recently the only options for patients who had difficulty communicating was to spend time each week with a therapist and possibly purchase expensive equipment. For many, this equipment was prohibitively expensive and unattainable.
Fortunately, with the development of new technologies such as the iPhone and iPad, children and adults with communication deficits have access to technology that is specifically designed to facilitate communication and to teach communication skills. While an iPad is not inexpensive, it and all of the communication apps can be bought for far less than a thousand dollars, whereas historically, assistive communication devices were many thousands of dollars.
There are dozens of programs designed to help patients communicate and to expand their communication abilities. These four will help you, and your patients, get started.
ABA Flash Cards – Actions
It can be difficult for children to learn action words because they are fluid. Without seeing the action performed it is more difficult to convey the meaning of an action word to a child. The ABA Actions app shows a variety of actions such as brushing, rolling, tasting, and whispering in clear images. Children can have the action read to them and there is a musical component to keep children engaged.
iPrompts has several features to help children who are having difficulty communicating verbally. The application provides choices for children to begin communicating more effectively immediately and also allows them to learn how to verbalize their desires more efficiently over time. Some of the features of this application include picture schedules, choice prompts, a visual countdown timer, and an image library.
The Proloquo2Go app is ideal for patients who have difficulty speaking. This is an augmentative and alternative communication device that has a vocabulary of more than seven thousand words, current symbols and a text to speech feature. The menu allows users to choose the type of communication they want to pursue such as requests for help, questions, basic communications, or the ability to search by word category.
The iCommunicate application allows parents, teachers, or caregivers to fully customize the application with real world images unique to the child. These images can be accompanied by customized voice recordings and the application also comes preloaded with some audio. For images without audio there is a text to speech option. With these images, the user is able to create storyboards and routines for the child or present options for the child to choose.
Before devices such as the iPhone and iPad a piece of equipment with these sorts of abilities was only accessible to a small fraction of the children and adults who could benefit from them. Now there are app stores with dozens of options. Have you encouraged the use of these or other applications in your practice? What are your favorite iPad applications for patients with speech delays or communication deficiencies?