One-Dimensional Speech-Language Therapy: Is the iPad Alone Enough?

Dimensional Doors

Photo by the_tahoe_guy

Smart phones, iPods, e-readers, webcams, iPads and more…my humble listing does not even touch the surface of the plethora of hard-to-pass-up gadgets introduced by technology.

We undoubtedly live in a digital era. I just co-authored a digital songbook for speech, language and hearing goals. I am in the process of developing an app for the iPad for language intervention. My 3-year-old daughter could easily become an iPad junkie if allowed unlimited access. I’ve also been guilty of texting my husband from the upper level of our home because I was too lazy to walk downstairs. I understand emails and text messages have become primary modes of communication, and I am not opposed to the reality in which we live.

My concern today is that I have heard of SLPs who are abandoning all traditional or old-school therapy materials and methods and beginning to strictly incorporate the iPad in most if not all of their therapy sessions.

I cannot deny the iPad is a powerful motivator, a versatile and effective therapy tool if used appropriately, and a great time-saver in multiple ways, but can I deny the effectiveness of other tried and true therapy tools? Have flashcards, markers and paint, manipulatives and hard copy storybooks become obsolete? My personal and professional opinion is a resounding NO!

When recently perusing a long list of available apps geared for speech/language pathologists, I was amazed to find that there truly seems to be an app for everything—articulation, phonology, minimal pairs, wh– questions, following directions, predicting, inferring, pragmatics, categorization skills, verb usage, homophones, comparing/contrasting, story starters, goal-writing, and on and on and on. While these resources are great and I commend the innovative SLPs creating these wonderful apps, my only caution is that we not become one-dimensional in our provision of services.

Allow me to clarify that I love my iPad and use it regularly with various children I work with, however, I don’t believe any one tool will ever be sufficient or appropriate for every child or for every intervention goal regardless of how technologically advanced it is.

The crux of the matter is, in addition to our digital reality, the other reality I see is that children still must learn to interact with people in addition to machines. There is still much to be said for the meeting of the eyes, for the exchanging of words between humans, for appropriate physical contact, for the manipulation of objects in one’s hands, and so forth, so we must not write-off valuable non-techie resources and materials that are still available to us.

This is not a call to put away our iPads, it is merely a call to evaluate and utilize all of the effective tools we possess in order to provide excellent speech and language services to the individuals we serve.

Let’s not sacrifice all traditional therapy materials and methods on the altar of technology!

(This post originally appeared on The Speech Stop)


Ana Paula G. Mumy, MS, CCC-SLP,  is a trilingual speech-language pathologist and the author of various continuing education eCourses, leveled storybooks, and instructional therapy materials for speech/language intervention, as well as the co-author of her latest eSongbook which features songs for speech, language and hearing goals.  She has provided school-based and pediatric home health care services for nearly 12 years and thoroughly enjoys providing resources for SLPs, educators and parents on her website The Speech Stop.


  1. says

    Great post, and very well said. I work to develop apps too, and have always been an advocate for the power of technology, but even I absolutely agree that we should use all the effective materials we have at our disposal. Apps and the iPad are a tool, hopefully also a context, to build all sorts of skills. In my presentations on technology I have been playing with the idea of promoting the pre- and post-activity around apps. So many language-enhancing and “traditional” activities can be built around the context of apps, similar to how SLPs have also used picture books.

    Meghan Graham wrote a great post a while back that serves as a perfect example of this (and no, despite her nice comment, I didn’t give her the idea at all)!

    Cindy Meester also writes a lot about how apps fit into larger themes and contexts.

    Plus, we don’t want to overdo the iPad so kids (and we) get sick of it and it loses its engaging potential, right? I still love a good old picture book, game, or exciting hands-on material.

    Thanks for your really balanced article.

    • says

      Thanks, Sean, for your kind words. Please do share more of your pre/post activities around the iPad! I always try to tie the iPad activities I engage in with students with other hands-on non-techie activities targeting the same skill, so it’s nice to hear you do as well. :)

  2. Fay McGill says

    Thanks for your great post. I could not agree more. It seems that many children are very motivated by technology. When appropriate, I have found that devices can be a fantastic tool to motivate and supplement what is already occurring in therapy sessions. However I feel that, as speech-language pathologists, we must never lose sight of what communication is all about – a meaningful interaction between two people. We communicate with others to share our experiences, question and learn about the world in a multi-dimensional way. We can not achieve these goals with an iPad alone. Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      Thanks, Fay, for your feedback! I like what you said, that tools “supplement what is already occurring in therapy sessions,” which is the facilitation of purposeful communicative interactions.

  3. says

    I shutter to think of a world that would exist of only technology. As has often been said VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE and that includes everything, even therapy tools and treatment procedures! Technology is wonderful but it is just another tool/vehicle/avenue to reach a desired destination. You speak for many of us, thank you.