As a clinician, you seek apps with features that reinforce treatment goals. In voice treatment these include apps that facilitate engagement, provide auditory and visual feedback, and track behavior.
Following evaluation and diagnosis by an SLP and otolaryngologist (when appropriate), the SLP can design a treatment plan to, for example, provide reminders and visual support for completing voice exercises and increasing hydration.
Such apps can bolster compliance between in-person visits or Web-based telepractice appointments—a particularly compelling option in rural areas, where speech-language pathologists specializing in voice are few, notes Erica James, an SLP at the Voice and Swallowing Center of Maine at Waldo County General Hospital. "Infusing technology such as mobile apps into telepractice provides an efficient and economical solution to this problem, while maintaining the high standards of quality care," says James, who conducts tech-infused voice treatment in the clinic and via telepractice.
Structuring home programming
A large part of any treatment program involves practice exercises. However, because voice disorders have a higher incidence among adults, clients need to be somewhat more self-directed—compared with children, who can be guided by a parent. Mobile devices and apps can remind clients to complete daily practice and to document practice sessions as a means of maintaining accountability to oneself and the SLP. The built-in Reminders app in iOS allows users to enter a reminder of any kind, link it to a time and location, and set an auditory/visual alert. Available for free across iOS, Android, and Web platforms, Remember the Milk offers another way for clients to keep a treatment diary.
Audio and video feedback
The recording capabilities of smartphones and mobile devices can be useful in voice treatments. The clinician can provide or elicit models of voice production strategies, such as breath support and resonance, and record them in the client's device using the built-in "voice memos" (free apps are widely available for this purpose) or camera/photo album functions of any mobile device.
Clients can, in turn, record samples of practice during home sessions or use tools to make practice more fun and contextual. As one example, Videolicious (for Web use and also in the iOS App Store) is a free tool for video production. These types of tools make it simple for any client to make and save a video recording while speaking to the camera or narrating over pictures. Scrapbooking apps or any app that integrates audio recording with visuals can help keep clients engaged as they record voice samples.
Monitoring voice volume
Apps that interact with the device's microphone provide useful visual feedback to clients who need to develop increased or decreased vocal intensity. Try Voice Meter (iOS, $.99), which was developed as part of the social skill app Sosh, or apps such as Sound Meter (Android, free). Voice-O-Meter (iOS, $.99) offers the additional features of data tracking and a visual indication of when a client's voice is in a "just right" zone, rather than only volume display. For a fun twist on this theme, Bla Bla Bla (iOS, free) is a "sound-reactive" design project that uses artistic representations of moving faces to mimic the volume of the speaker's voice.
Aligning with treatment approaches
It's wonderful to discover happy accidents that fit well with research-based approaches, another benefit of looking at apps according to features. More Water (iOS, $.99) and Drink More Water! (Android, Free) facilitate tracking, notification and engagement for clients who are using a hydration treatment program, which is a behavioral adjustment that must be done over time outside the treatment session. The game Ah Up (available for free in both the iOS App Store, and for Android) is an engaging way to work on sustained vocal intensity, which, according to SLP Erica James, visually replicates the goals of Lee Silverman Voice Treatment®. The game, appropriate for clients who don't object to using an animated game in treatment, asks the user to keep a rocket aloft by producing a loud and sustained vowel sound.
For more ideas, check out SLP Lauren Enders' Pinterest board on apps useful for voice treatment.