What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology is any kind of technology and/or tool that can be used to enhance the functional independence of a person with a disability. Often, for people with disabilities, accomplishing daily tasks such as communicating with others, going to school or work, or participating in activities can be a challenge. Assistive Technology (AT) devices are tools to help overcome those challenges and enable people living with disabilities to enhance and have access to a quality of life, that may otherwise not be known, and lead more independent lives.

The mission of this blog is to serve as a voice of a constant researcher in the field of educational and assistive technologies so that the best products, strategies and services may be located easily, in hopes that they will then be delivered, taught and used to better the lives of people with disabilities.


SLPs: AAC, Apps and Technology in the Practice

Using these little tricks that require your child to communicate, will teach them the power of communication.

I am not a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) but I do work side-by-side with many. SLP's in today's world must become experts in the technology world, just like many of us do today. I find myself sending supports to my fellow SLP's almost daily so thought it was time to have a blog posting specifically for them. This will be a growing post so be sure to check back on occasion to see if there are any new and exciting resources added to the list. 

So let's talk about iDevices in Speech Therapy...

The iPad has become a very popular teaching tool for SLP's and a popular AAC device. I want to start by saying, I appreciate ASHA's comment, " Many educational apps can easily be incorporated into the therapy setting and can be used to collect data, record conversational samples, motivate students or to be used as an augmentative assistive communication device. One should be cautious about the use of mobile devices as a means of AAC, unless an assistive technology assessment has been conducted and the device and app(s) are found to be the most appropriate means of communication for the student." I have spoken about this myself in my posting, "AAC Apps". It is important not to run off in any direction without going through the appropriate process. There is just too much out there and it is easy to get confused about it all. AAC is a world that takes a team to understand.It is easy to grab on to the iPad and an app, because it is there but know that it may not be the app that is best for that specific child. There are so many available... they have opened our world and for that we are thankful but it has also caused great confusion as we become engulfed by AAC apps.

ASHA has provided a nice listing of the advantages and disadvantages of using mobile devices and apps in the educational setting. One advantage that they have listed, that we really cannot ignore is, "Motivation—Students enjoy using these products. Anecdotal reports suggest a higher rate of student involvement in their education on some basic research studies."

So, do you need some bargaining power? You may want to share this with your administrator: The Cost and Advantages of Implementing the iPad as a Learning Tool for Speech Therapy and Special Education. It will provide you with a really nice breakdown. 
If you are not using an iPad, it is time! Are you wondering "How Many SLPs are REALLY Using iPads?" (For the full survey, visit: http://www.psha.org/pdfs/PSHAiPadsSurvery.pdf) This research will provide you with some great information about just that. Basically, if you are not, do it! This is a perfect place for this tool to reside. Should it be THE tool? No, just a tool added to your toolbox, pulled out when appropriate. Don't get too lost in it by forgetting all your other wonderful teaching strategies!

As far as apps- there are listings on this blog to help you find apps for AAC purposes. The listing, Apps in the Special Education Classroom will provide you with many resources for finding apps with specific focuses. Be sure to take some time in this section. If sign language is an area of interest, please explore the posting on Signing Resources. If you are using switches with your students, there are several postings on the use of switches. 

An extremely rich site for SLP's (in general and for apps in specific) is the collection of resources by Judith Maginnis Kuster. Beware as you could be here for hours! 

If you have an iPad, you may want to explore the following apps:
  • ArtikPix provides a fun way for children to receive high quality speech practice.
  • Kindergarten.com which offers a variety of high quality apps worth exploring.
  • Lingraphica "The Aphasia Company" with several apps to research. You will find yourself using these apps daily.
  • SmartyEars has numerous apps available on the app store for speech-therapy. Their apps range from simple apps for children with severe communication delays, to sophisticated apps designed for children with articulation delays and caseload management.
  • The Talking Carl, Talking Harry the Hedgehog and the other talking guys! These are animated figures that repeats whatever it hears using a modified voice and some other sound effect.
For your use, consider the following apps:
  • Behavior Tracker Pro which allows you to record the components of ABC data collection and then analyze the data.
  • Common Core Standards App is a great reference for students, parents, and educators to easily read and understand the core standards. Quickly find standards by subject, grade, and subject category (domain/cluster).
  • Flashcards (free) allows you to create your own flashcards for any subject 
  • IEP Checklist (free) provides a checklist of everything that should be done at an IEP, includes specific language from IDEA and places to keep notes
  • Percentally to track & record data, both single and dual item, gives percent correct, transfers to Google docs
  • Pictello allows you to create talking photo albums. You choose a picture for each page, type in text, and can either have that text read by a computerized narrator, or record yourself reading it. It feels like it should be a complicated process, but it's incredibly easy to learn and use, even for kids. Know that your photo books can be shared, either as emailed iTunes files, or via Pictello's universal server.
  • Picle allows you to take your pictures and add audio to them. Let your imagination go with this great little app! Maybe your students can narrate their photos to practice those new articulation skills? Tell their own social story? Ah, what fun!
App Lists for SLPs
I cannot possibly provide all the great apps for you, so please, for app lists visit the following resources:
If you are an SLP and have not begun using Pinterest, it is time. (Of course, I have my own boards on Pinterest that I invite you to follow!) Pinterest is a place where SLP's are sharing resources, one of them being apps for use in therapy but not only ipad information but the sharing of activities, handouts, startegies and other great tech sites and resources. It is a great way to share with others and to organize yourself. The bad- you may have to access this at home, unless you can prove to the powers that be what a rich resource this is for your program. There are some very rich Pinterest sites worth exploring, chalked full of amazing resources. Take some time exploring (and consider following) the following sites:  
  • Lauren S. Enders, MA, CCC-SLP,  an SLP/Augmentative Communication Consultant/Assistive Technology Consultant who offers very rich boards on iDevices, accessories and apps for the various domains of speech-language practice. Her apps are broken down by specific speech needs.
  • PediaStaff, a pediatric/school-based firm with a  mission to serve special needs community through great resources. 
  • Consonantly Speaking from a licensed speech-language pathologist who likes to share information, materials, therapy ideas, and thoughts on the field of speech-language pathology.
  • Comm Greenhouse, supporting SLPs who provide AAC to children and adults with significant communication challenges. (The important thing to know: with Pinterest, click on the picture until it takes you to the original source. Once you get to the source, you have all the information you need.)
Want to know how to use your iPad in general? There is the Apple Manual that is worth exploring and then there are lots of sites that will give you their top 10, 20 and 100 tips. (Yes, I did one too: iDevice Basic How to Tips.)

Wondering how to use an iPad during small group instruction? A few brainstormed thoughts: 
  • SLP directs, students watch.
  • SLP directs, with iPad in the middle of the group and students touch with instruction.
  • SLP instructs and iPad is passed between students. Use as part of your lesson, part of your center activity.  
  • Demonstrate to one student an activity then have that student demonstrate to the next, and so on. Power to the students! 
Resources every SLP should Know - If you don't know these sites, you really should:
You may also want to explore: Top 15 Speech-Language Pathology Blogs of 2012
Hopefully this will get you started. It is an exciting time! Feel free to let me know what I am missing.