Using Apps to Meet Multidisciplinary Treatment Goals App-based collaboration with other professionals can propel clients’ treatment progress. App-titude
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App-titude  |   January 01, 2017
Using Apps to Meet Multidisciplinary Treatment Goals
Author Notes
  • Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is an SLP and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Newton, Mass., and consultant to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie, looks at technology “through a language lens.” sean@speechtechie.com
    Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is an SLP and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Newton, Mass., and consultant to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie, looks at technology “through a language lens.” sean@speechtechie.com×
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Swallowing, Dysphagia & Feeding Disorders / Telepractice & Computer-Based Approaches / App-titude
App-titude   |   January 01, 2017
Using Apps to Meet Multidisciplinary Treatment Goals
The ASHA Leader, January 2017, Vol. 22, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.APP.22012017.np
The ASHA Leader, January 2017, Vol. 22, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.APP.22012017.np
Across all settings, our coordination with other disciplines is key to our clients’ skill development. When targeting treatment goals, we overlap with a host of areas such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychology, and general and special education.
Apps can provide a joint window into these contexts: They engage students while also enabling them to practice targeted skills. Here I share a case study that shows the power of my app-driven partnership with an occupational therapist (OT).
Joint appraisal
When I worked in the schools, a third-grade student of mine showed complex communication difficulties, including problems with speech intelligibility, language formulation and pragmatics. He also required an intensive service-delivery schedule, yet was not easily engaged. It took a lot of trial and error to figure out how best to approach his sessions each week. He wasn’t even interested in the iPad, which completely flummoxed me.
Enter our wonderful OT. Because we conducted sessions in the same large clinical space each week, we shared incidental observations and strategies about clients we both treated.
Observing my student on a trial activity with the iPad, the OT noted that he struggled with fine-motor movement, which affected his engagement with the device. Specifically, my client attempted to interact with the tablet via an indiscriminate sweep of his hand, resulting in ineffective app activation. As a result, he lost interest.
Our OT’s observations and expertise lent clarity and specificity to what I had observed myself, and helped both of us open pathways in our work with this student. She provided me with simple techniques to help stabilize his wrist and enable him to effectively point with his finger. I also discovered a useful contextual doorway: Our student loved to talk about food!
Food for skills
Together, the OT and I worked together to select an app that would match his zone of linguistic and motor development and pique his interest. Our choice? ABC Food ($2.99 for iOS), one of many in a wonderful alphabet app series by Peapod Labs. This app requires the user to select favorite foods from an alphabetical matrix via pointing.
Guiding the student as he viewed colorful photos of food displayed on the app, I asked him questions designed to elicit descriptive language. I also encouraged him to use movement patterns to enhance motor skills and word repetition to improve his speech intelligibility. The app provides simple interactions related to each food: For example, sweeping the finger—a targeted motor skill—over a picture reveals another picture. Raw french fries, for instance, transform into cooked french fries, allowing additional use of language describing the “before and after.”
Finally, the app contains curated, brief YouTube videos that depict recipes, songs and other narratives around food. These encourage additional engagement: commenting, questioning and responding to posed questions.
Use of this app in our sessions led to contextual engagement for the OT as well, as she would use some of the student’s favorite selections as recipes to further work on motor goals. His progress with our objectives and his increased interest in the iPad allowed me to select apps with more complex interactions and corresponding language such as More Buffet! ($2.99 for iOS). This app prompts users to use language related to selecting foods from different countries, then “cooking” the foods via a series of on-screen steps. We also expanded our food theme into new contextual avenues such as books and games—to promote balance in our sessions.
I hope this anecdote underscores the value of communicating with other professionals to bolster practice opportunities across contexts and unlock apps’ potential. When used purposefully and collaboratively, app features can be used to prompt numerous cognitive, linguistic, motor and other skills.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
January 2017
Volume 22, Issue 1