July 3, 2012 Columns

APP-titude: Apps for Brain Injury Rehab

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) happens in an instant, and the effects can last a lifetime. Fortunately, through rehabilitation advances, most people with TBI can recover much of their communication and other cognitive functioning.

No part of that recovery process is easy, but smartphone and tablet technology can make each step more efficient and accessible. Here are more than 40 apps to help clinicians, patients, and families, from initial assessment through community reintegration.

Assessment

On-the-field assessment of sport concussions can be completed using the app SCAT2 for iOS and Android. To assess more severe brain injuries, clinicians can also tap apps for such familiar brain injury scales as the Glasgow Coma Scale, available as Glasgow Free for iOS and Glasgow Calculator for Android, and the Rancho Los Amigos Scale for Android. As patients emerge from coma, track positive signs of progress or disruptive behaviors with such apps as Behavior Tracker Pro for iOS or Behavior Status for Android.

Communication

Patients with head injury may communicate best early on when presented with a binary choice speech-generating app such as Answers: YesNo for iOS and Quick Talk AAC for both iOS and Android. Encourage voice production after extubation using visual feedback apps such as Bla|Bla|Bla for iOS, which shows fun faces reacting to sound. If patients are unable to speak, Phrase Board for iOS offers text-based options for expressing basic needs, and Verbally for iOS is an adjustable keyboard with word prediction and voice output.

Cognitive Rehabilitation

There's an app to match nearly any cognitive rehab goal. Some standouts for iOS include iMazing and Matrix Game for visual problem solving, Awesome Memory for short-term memory, Brain Challenge for an overall cognitive workout, and Skill Game for executive functioning. Mainstream games (Angry Birds, Where's My Water, Sudoku, Bejeweled) also provide cognitive stimulation for attention and reasoning.

To target practical skills, iOS offers a number of apps, including MakeChange for counting money, DialSafe Pro for dialing 911 and other programmed numbers, and Spaced Retrieval TherAppy for training customized memory targets.

There are apps to aid dysarthria and dysphagia, which frequently accompany TBI: Pocket Pairs for iOS helps patients practice producing words clearly in minimal pairs. The Swallow Now timer for iOS discreetly cues users to swallow at regular intervals to avoid drooling when sensation is reduced. iSwallow for iOS reminds clients of prescribed dysphagia exercises with video instructions and data tracking.

Compensation

When natural recovery has slowed, compensatory tools, such as memory aids, may prove useful. iOS and Android devices provide built-in text-based calendar and reminder tools. Greater visual support is offered in Visual Schedule Planner for iOS. Instead of text, EZBuzz for iOS and Voice Reminder for Android use photos and voice to remind people of their appointments and tasks. A host of other reminder apps serve specific purposes, from medication schedules to bill payment to parking spots—search Apple's iTunes or App Store or Android's Google Play Store.

Familiar sticky notes have also made their way to touch-screen devices via Sticky Notes for iOS and the Desk Notes widget for Android. And the cross-platform comprehensive memory app Evernote allows users to combine notes, sounds, images, and websites in synced notebooks.

For a safe discharge into the community, users can communicate emergency medical information via such apps as ICE—In Case of Emergency—on iOS and Android.

Loved ones can keep track of brain injury survivors venturing out on their own with GPS-based apps such as Community Sidekick for iOS and Family GPS Tracker for iOS and Android. Two other trackers for iOS include Unus Tactus, featuring a photo interface, and Guardian Trace, featuring a time-based check-in system. Across platforms, the built-in Maps app is helpful for plotting directions and showing current location to those who have lost their way.

SLPs can play an important role in TBI survivors' recovery by selecting appropriate apps and training them to use them as part of a comprehensive rehab program. Find iOS apps by searching the title on Apple's iTunes or App Store. Find Android apps by searching Google Play.

 

Disclosure: Megan Sutton is a director for Tactus Therapy Solutions Ltd., makers of the Spaced Retrieval app.

Megan Sutton, MS, CCC-SLP, works in inpatient rehabilitation for Fraser Health. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 2, Neurophysiology and Neurogenic Speech and Language Disorders. Contact her at megan@tactustherapy.com.

cite as: Sutton, M. (2012, July 03). APP-titude: Apps for Brain Injury Rehab. The ASHA Leader.

  

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