Home Speech-Language Pathology How I became the speech guy with an iPad

How I became the speech guy with an iPad

by Eric Sailers

iPad Screenshot with Monkey Business App

Photo by Eric Sailers

(This post originally ran on http://slpsharing.com/)

As a kindergartner in the mid 1980’s, I saw a speech-language pathologist (SLP) for speech delays. I don’t recall the experience with much detail, but I have been reminded by those closest to me. Once I became an SLP, my mom informed me that I said “Dada Da” for “Santa Claus,” and my SLP (who continues to work in the same district that I attended as a student and now work in) told me that I called myself “airwit.” Evidently I had errors of stopping, cluster reduction, vocalic r, and t/k substitution. I was also told that I did drill work with traditional flashcards to practice sounds. Although I graduated from speech-language therapy, I wonder how my experience would have been different with the wonderful technologies available today.

Back in the winter of 2008, I purchased my first iPhone and started beta testing for Proloquo2Go, an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app. I was so impressed with how a cool, mobile technology could be very sophisticated at a reasonable cost. I started looking at other applications that could be used in speech-language therapy. One of the first apps I discovered was Wheels on the Bus, an interactive music book that plays the song. My students loved the interactions like moving the bus and popping bubbles with the touch of their finger. I loved how my students were so engaged by the interactions that didn’t require a computer mouse (which is challenging for many of my students); plus, they sang to repetitive lyrics and heard their voice recording in the app.

In 2009, I thought about developing an app. I didn’t have a background in software engineering, so I began a conversation with my friend Jason Rinn who did. After several discussions and time spent learning the iPhone programming language, Jason was on board. Jason and I decided to create solutions that involved a strong component of tracking progress. We created a data collection app (Percentally) and an articulation app (ArtikPix) with integrated data collection. ArtikPix is an app that allowed me to include modern technology in a tool for speech articulation difficulties that I personally experienced some 25 years ago. It means a lot to me that I can share such a personalized solution with children who I now serve.

I currently use iOS devices (iPod touch and iPad) in speech-language therapy sessions. I have five iPods that are primarily for individual use, and one iPad I incorporate in group activities. There are apps my students use individually such as iColoringBook and Sentence Builder. For both apps, my students show their screen to the group as they produce sentences. Optimized iPad apps for my groups include a book app called Zoo You Later – Monkey Business and BrainPop Featured Movie. During Monkey Business and BrainPop, the students take turns listening, touching, and talking about the content. A book app like Monkey Business is very enjoyable and beneficial for children because of the features including interactive text and illustrations, painting, recorded audio, voice recording, and highlighted text. I imagine I would have enjoyed using apps like interactive books and games to practice my sounds.

My students are drawn to the iOS devices, and general education peers are interested in how they use the technologies for communication. My students favorite part about iOS devices is the touching aspect. Even if they are not skilled with a computer mouse, most of my students can tap, flick, and drag elements on the screen. I see this as a great source of initiating and maintaining their engagement during activities.
I think that apps offer great features for visual cues and auditory feedback that aid children with special needs in the learning process. I also am very pleased to have my students using mobile technologies that they might not otherwise use because of various factors. Finally, it brings me great joy to hear students asking, “Hey speech guy, can we use the iPad today?”

Eric Sailers, MA, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist who serves children Pre-K to 5th grade. He has co-created two iOS applications: Percentally and ArtikPix. He is also a blogger at slpsharing.com.

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Donna Smith September 21, 2010 - 3:07 pm

There’s a Wheels on the Bus app?! I MUST have this.

Karen Lopez-Walker September 21, 2010 - 10:33 pm

I agree with you! Kids these days are so much more likely to engage with a multi-modality/sensory approach to therapy. We designed this little app called “Pocketslp” for parents and therapists. So far so good! I’ve come to really appreciate the iPod touch, iPhone and iPad with my kiddos who suffer with CP and other mobility issues. I actually put velcro on the back of my device and stuck it to one of my kiddo’s little table. She was CVI and CP-man she really lit up and her mother literally would weep when she saw her daughter turning pages of a story book and making music with alphabet cards! The best thing ever!
Wheels on the bus is great! Here’s a few more my little ones LOVE:
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox
I Close My Eyes (really nice for those who can only imagine mobility) great language!
Itsy Bitsy Spider—lots of hidden treasures to discover!
Keep a lookout for more apps from PocketSLP…as therapists, we know what you want and what your clients/students/ patients need!
I’ve seen your app and it’s really cute! I really like the /ch/ chilies card (being biased from NM and all)…

Manju Sara Jacob September 22, 2010 - 2:41 am

I use MAP SLP for my articulation kids(A smarty ear app). Its an Iphone App. Very affordable. And allows you to store multiple users. Score the accuracy percentage for several sessions. Clear and wonderful flash cards with selecting option for sounds in different positions and for phonological Processes.
The other educational Apps I use is Iwrite(Trace letters to form 3 letter words),Tap to talk,Word Magic,Wh Questions(Answering various Wh Questions).
It is amazing how technology has been reduced to palm and with something you carry for multiple purposes.
I am a proud team member of TinyEYE Telespeech Therapy Sevices which is based in Canada. I am located in Netherlands. I use TinyEYE for online speech Therapy and also for side by side therapy. Check out http://www.tinyeye.com

Martha Hirsch Alman, M.S. CCC-SLP September 22, 2010 - 9:43 am

where are the technology workshops for us old-timers?

Eric Sailers September 22, 2010 - 10:19 am


You could come see me present. In October, I’m presenting locally in San Diego, CA and at Closing the Gap in Minnesota. Then, I’m presenting at the CSHA conference in March and the MSHA conference in April. Contact me if you want further details.

Jose Briones October 12, 2010 - 11:07 pm

Thanks for the kind comment on Smarty Ears’ MAP SLP. I encourage you to look at the rest of the catalog for the newest apps for Speech Therapy

Mary Braun December 2, 2010 - 4:19 pm

I am new to the use of I-pads in speech therapy. Im looking for apps people would recommend for MS age students, particularly for receptive and expressive language skills. All the apps I’ve reviewed seem to be either for elementary ages or too advanced, like the college prep apps.

Eric Sailers December 2, 2010 - 5:47 pm

BrainPOP is one iPad app that I’ve used with middle school students for language.

mary ellen kelly February 7, 2011 - 10:16 am

I am looking for critical thinking apps to use with language impaired high school students. Any suggestions are appreciated!

kvrtiska March 29, 2011 - 11:07 pm

Wondering about the best apps for literacy development. I see the sentence builder. Any other suggestions? Trying to prepare a school presentation on technology apps for reading/writing development. THANKS!

Bill Connors March 30, 2011 - 10:08 am

visit http://www.aphasiatoolbox.com/?q=appleappsslps for a free spreadsheet about apple apps for SLPs.

Brenda Anderson April 25, 2011 - 2:26 pm

Is there any data out there to support the use of ipads for therapy? I am putting together a proposal to purchase a few ipads for the speech department and need some data to add to the proposal.

Alexis May 10, 2011 - 2:34 pm

Eric are you presenting anywhere in the NY or NJ areas…I would love to attend. I’m thinking about getting the ipad to work with my students in EI and Prek-5th. Believe it or not I have a 2 year old on one already! He has one and I don’t! Guess I have to get moving. Do you have a FB page to follow and do you have a list of apps for these age groups for speech/language. Thanks, Alexis abcw99@aol.com

Margaret July 11, 2011 - 4:18 pm

We are so thrilled with the use of technology more and more in our public schools all over the US and abroad. Online Speech Therapy is becoming more and more accepted here in the US and speech therapists who work for us are finding that school administrators really love our services as well as their students. When a student uses the computer to access our speech therapist, they are motivated to learn and interested in any features, activities, and knowledge that they gain from their experience with our live therapists. Not only to do we see first hand how their speech and language improves, but we also see that student gain self awareness, self esteem, and valuable new computer skills that they may not have had before. In our experience, students are comfortable using technology and they seem less stressed towards having speech therapy. The more that teachers use technology to teach, and the less fearful they are of technology, the greater chance we have of seeing students succeed academically and socially, and to watch them grow into successful, productive adults.

Speech Therapy Telepractice May 15, 2013 - 3:48 pm

Speech therapy is absolutely vital to a person’s growth. When pronunciation is ignored as a child grows older, they can only be left further in darkness. But they must know it’s never too late for anyone to get the therapy they need.

Holly September 4, 2013 - 3:13 pm

Who could tell me about using an IPAD with proloquo 2 go on it as a communication devices vs. lets say a “vantage lite”? Some of the SLPs I work with are completely against IPADs for communication devices? I feel like it might be a good way to go with certain children with special needs and the way technology is going now a days, it may go that way in the future as well??

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