My name is Susan and I am a Speech-Language Pathologist at an outpatient rehabilitation clinic. We provide services for children birth to 21 years of age. Our clinic has an outpatient and in-house ABA ( Applied Behavior Analysis) program so many of the children I provide services for have an autism diagnosis.
I use technology in my practice as an augmentative communication device as well as for a reward and reinforcement of concepts taught during therapy. The communication app that most of my students use is ProloQuo2Go. This app is fairly easy to teach to the child and the parent. The vocabulary can be increased by the therapist or the parent as needed. When loaded onto an iPad or iPod, it is easy to transport and looks appropriate in the community since many other children carry these devices into stores, schools and offices.
The success I have found when using this app has been amazing. Children have a desire to communicate and to give them access to do so is exciting. I have a child in the clinic that has been attending for several years. He was one of the first children to be introduced to ProloQuo2Go. When he first came to the clinic he communicated by sounds, squeals and temper tantrums. He used only a few words and these were produced in a quiet voice that could barely be heard. At first, the device was programmed with highly motivating items, such as toys and snacks. As he became proficient in its use, more vocabulary was introduced so he could not only request but greet people, make comments and ask questions. This child has begun to speak verbally in short phrases. We are now using the app to increase in sentence length and syntax skills. He will make complete sentences to name and describe with the device and then read the sentence aloud.
I have another student that was 12 years old when he came to the clinic. He was nonverbal and his mother took pictures on her phone of things he liked. He requested activities and objects by searching her pictures for what he wanted. It was a frustrating and time-consuming practice. His mother wanted us to find a more efficient way for him to communicate. A device was ordered and while we waited for it to arrive, I taught him to use the ProloQuo2Go app. Once the device arrived, I taught his mother how to add vocabulary and pictures that were meaningful to the student. The next time they came for therapy, she was so excited. The student was using his device with the family members and he had begun to bring it to school. If he wanted something, he would ask with his device. He had a voice for the first time.
In addition to communication app, I often use apps for reinforcement of other skills. For children working on articulation, I use the app Articulation Station. This app has photographs of items arranged by sound or process and can be easily personalized for each child’s use. It also provides a way to keep tally of the child’s responses so the therapist can have documentation of progress.
When working on answering questions, I use the Autism iHelp apps. These apps also have photographs and the difficulty level can set for each particular child’s needs.
Although technology can never replace an actual therapist and her experience, the use of technology as a enhancement within therapy is useful. Many children are interested and engaged when presented with technology and are motivated by its use. The apps are being developed quickly so as therapists we need to be aware of what is available and make use of those apps that can enhance our program.