The Benefits of New Technology: Speech-Language Therapy Using the iTouch

Tracy Sippl, MS, CCC-SLP

Using an Apple iTouch for working on speech-language therapy goals has opened a new avenue that students really seem to enjoy. I first began using some of the different iTouch applications in March (2010) to work on "wh" questions. One of my students is highly distractible and using the iTouch helps him focus on the task much better than placing the traditional picture cards in front of him. I do not completely rely on the iTouch to meet all of my students' therapy needs, but I do mix the applications in sporadically to provide a different avenue for drill/practice and to assist with the carrying over of skills.

While using the iTouch, I sit directly beside my student. I have the application loaded and ready for him/her to use during a particular part of the therapy session. I use my own, personal, iTouch with my students because I have the flexibility to add applications quickly/easily that I feel benefit them (or delete those that do not). Currently, I only incorporate the use of the iTouch when I am working individually with students or, at most, with a group of two.

My articulation students enjoy using the Pocket SLP application to work on specific sounds in various contexts. I have observed improved accuracy during sound practice when using the iTouch compared to traditional picture cards! Most of the applications available will store the student's data (percentages) for you to assist with progress monitoring. My students enjoy the crisp digital photos presented by the application which increases their interest; they are captivated by the activity. With a few of my students, I like to begin the therapy session with an oral-motor warm-up (i.e., Oral Motor app). I hand the iTouch over to the student who goes through 5 of the different oral-motor exercises in preparation for the articulation therapy that follows.

My language-disabled students benefit from applications that address vocabulary development (e.g., Watch Me Learn app), identification of sentence parts (e.g., Mad Libs, Silly Stories, Describing apps), identification of parts of a story (e.g., Story Kit app), as well as learn to answer abstract questions and create responses based on inference (e.g., Question Builder app) using the question forms: why, where, how, and what. We work on developing categorization skills by using digital photos under the following applications (each is a separate app): fruits & nuts, instruments, shapes, sports, playing, wearing, eating, vegetables, vehicles, features, functions, class, actions, and emotions. There is also a receptive application that works on following directions addressing auditory skills (e.g., Farm Sounds, Zoo Sounds). I have even incorporated using a weather application (i.e., The Weather Channel) to work on science vocabulary, graphing of data, etc.

While working with some students with Asperger's syndrome, I have incorporated such applications as Emotions, Face-Cards B, C, F, G, H, Going Places, Everyday, and QuickCues. There is also an application (for older students) that provides cues addressing the Hidden Curriculum. I have uploaded video clips from YouTube to demonstrate nonverbal communication cues (e.g., clips of Pixar Shorties and Wallace & Gromit).

I have used Google and Bing search engines to help students find information related to research topics they have been assigned by classroom teachers. This allows me to model, and/or the student to practice, vocabulary skills and the importance of using concise wording while performing a search. We've used the application, FreeSaurus, to work on synonyms and Dictionary, to work on multiple-meaning words.

Needless-to-say, the iTouch has allowed me to incorporate numerous applications to supplement and support my common therapy goals with students demonstrating a variety of disabilities regardless of age. Having technology at my fingertips allows me to not only motivate my students but to provide me with additional enthusiasm when helping students learn necessary communication skills. To see the excitement on their faces when they correctly answer a question and are verbally reinforced by the application as well as by me is very rewarding. I, personally, enjoy the challenge of discovering new therapy applications and incorporating them to help my students learn using different forms of technology.

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