Problem: Finding the time to meet "synchronously" with colleagues can be challenging or nearly impossible. Yet connecting with other professionals energizes and reinforces us, in turn benefiting those we serve. Grinding away in our own little niches only fuels burnout.
(At least a partial) solution: Mobile tech tools can help bring us together, even if it's not physically around a table. Apps can bridge gaps of "unavailability," be it with colleagues in physical therapy, occupational therapy or other special education areas.
E-mail has lost some of its luster to other online communication resources that make connecting with colleagues simple, structured and fun, resembling our favorite social networking tools. Take Goalbook (free via iOS app and Android). Meant as a portal to share information about shared goals and other relevant data, the tool offers free options and more advanced features at cost.
As with many web-based services, site users should not share students' personal and confidential information, such as details of reports of diagnosis, photos, full names and dates of birth. However, clinicians can use student initials, along with goal areas and such measurements as percent accuracy and level of cueing for specific tasks. This allows professionals to track goal progress jointly, providing data as well as interdisciplinary communication.
Goalbook's interface is simple to use and intentionally will remind you of Facebook. This look and feel is also shared by Edmodo (free via iOS app and Android), which—although also not suited to confidential communication—is a great way to share treatment strategies, apps, files and other resources within a team.
When it comes to individual treatment, apps can help a clinician engage not only with the client, but also with other professionals. Recently I had a student who was not interested in using the iPad, primarily because of fine motor difficulties. The student lacked the ability to point and sweep and so couldn't activate the fun aspects of apps.
To help the student, I needed advice from another professional—in this case, our occupational therapist. I asked the OT how wrist support and other strategies could facilitate the student's pointing skills. Based on the OT's tips, the student's iPad manipulation skills improved, as did the student's engagement with contexts presented through apps, which led to increased speech and language. Specifically, consultation with the OT assisted the student with accessing the ABC Food app ($2.99 for iOS), which brings food and the alphabet to life with interactive elements. This interprofessional collaboration led to improved skills in language and fine motor goal areas for the student, and also opened doors to additional activities in this area of interest, such as game-style food-preparation apps and hands-on activities involving the topic of food.
Methodology through apps
Apps can also serve as a common resource among service providers using interdisciplinary therapy methodologies. For example, the Visualizing and Verbalizing® program from Lindamood-Bell can be implemented for students with lessons given by SLPs and special education/literacy teachers. The early stages of the program, which scaffolds students' ability to describe gestalt imagery, involve the use of concept-laden photos. These are easy to grab and share among service providers using services and apps that access Flickr's "interestingness" category of robust photos (including a free iOS app). Be sure to preview and save photos appropriate to your setting and population.
Other cross-professional methodologies are beginning to develop apps, such as the Zones of Regulation® curriculum, a cognitive-behavioral approach to addressing deficits in emotional and sensory regulation, executive functions and social cognition. Occupational therapist Leah Kuypers developed the program and app ($4.99 for iOS, Mac, Android and Amazon devices) to be used together across multiple disciplines and in conjunction with materials from the Zones program.
It is exciting to see respected treatment programs such as this one develop engaging electronic and mobile materials. We should look for this to become a trend.