The iPad & the SLP Toolbox

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Super Duper artic flashcards, Fisher Price Puppy’s Home, Fisher Price Piggy Bank, Cranium Cariboo, PlayDoh, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, communication devices, TPT printable products. All very common items in the typical SLP toolbox. Nobody freaks out if you mention them. Nobody asks “Where’s the evidence based data?” for use of the “Cranium Cariboo” game or “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. But mention use of an iPad in therapy and you will likely encounter a very different response.

I feel a need to write this post since I frequently see posts or comments in SLP Facebook groups about how they would “never” use an iPad in therapy (thanks in part to ASHA’s misguided assault on tech use in the past two BHSM campaigns). That’s unfortunate since those SLPs are truly missing an important tool in their toolbox. It would be like a home builder refusing to use an electric nail gun and only building homes by hand with a hammer and nails.

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Many high quality apps specifically designed by SLPs for SLPs allow you to do in-app data collection, look at data over time, e-mail reports, and swipe through stimulus cards rapidly which allows you to get in more reps. Plus many kids are highly motivated by anything presented on an iPad. Having most of the major robust AAC apps at my fingertips to try at any moment has been life changing for many of my patients (be watching for a post soon with tips on how to get free access to many AAC apps if you are a SLP that does frequent AAC evals and funding recommendations).

I use apps extensively in my work as a SLP. My iPads with high quality apps are by far one of the best tools in my speechie toolbox! I have seen countless patients who had meltdowns at the sight of traditional flashcards but when shown similar activities on an iPad are immediately engaged. I’ve also had kids who were so impulsive that flashcards were constantly either getting ripped or flying off the table. Of course I’ve also had patients who view the iPad as a “toy” but most learn that my main therapy iPad is for “work” or to be used as a “talker” (AAC device). When needed, I lock it into Guided Access and NEVER let anyone see the secret code to unlock it and almost always have a firm grip on one of the handles of the GripCase (any “builder” would be protective of their costly and important tools… right?). I also never leave my personal iPad laying around in a treatment room. It is always in my possession. By strictly following these “rules”, I have never had a cracked screen or had an iPad stolen. I have a second iPad in a different colored GripCase with high quality kids apps that kids can earn time playing for a couple of minutes at the end.

Of course I still use traditional flashcards, worksheets, toys, crafts, music, books, games, etc. as other “tools” in my well equipped speechie toolbox (my toolbox is overflowing with stuff… see my post on SLP Hoarders). Being a good “builder” of speech & language skills requires making good clinical judgements in selecting the right tools for the job in that moment.

I bought my first iPad in December 2012 with Christmas $$$ and quickly bought a second one the following February with birthday $$$ realizing that I needed one iPad to be an AAC and therapy device and another one with “fun” well designed kids apps that kids could request or work for as reinforcers (not fair to take away the “voice” of a patient while playing in language rich apps). A few months later I won an iPad Mini in a giveaway and it has been a valuable tool to trial AAC apps on a more portable sized “talker”.

Since 2012, I’ve only encountered two patients so far that I could not use the iPad in some way. Both had huge meltdowns over the iPad being locked into Guided Access that. So the iPad was not part of the tools I used with them. But for the hundreds of other patients in that I’ve seen in that timeframe, it has been a very important and highly valuable tool.

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Not sure how to find high quality apps? I invite you to join me over on my OMazing Kids Facebook page and in my AppPeeps Facebook group where I post frequently about apps (see links below).

I post most info about apps on Facebook as a picture post in an album specifically for apps. There are currently two of these albums. Feel free to browse through them to see what you may have missed but be aware that prices and availability may have changed.

This older one is “full” (since 1,000 is the max). https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.562317480485928.1073741841.174264525957894&type=3

All new posts are being put in album #2: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1039368119447526.1073741892.174264525957894&type=3

I also typically cross post in the AppPeeps to help insure folks see the posts.

A few tips:

  •  I only post about apps that I have actually downloaded and tried and only post about those that I see as being either helpful in therapy, classroom or to parents of kids with special needs. There are thousands of apps in the App Store so it can be difficult to find ones to best meet our needs as SLPs.
  • When you see me post about an app being free or on sale, I always verify the price in the USA App Store prior to posting about it. But unless an app developer has shared info about sale dates, I have no way to know how long an app will be free or reduced. So it’s always best to grab apps quickly and to verify the price before downloading. App prices often change at 10:00pm CST but can change at any time with no notice.
  • App prices vary in other countries depending on the exchange rate compared to the US dollar and apps may not be available in every country.
  • If you don’t have an iPad yet or don’t have the iOS updated to the level required for a particular app, you can still take advantage of app freebies, sales and giveaways via logging onto the App Store in iTunes on your computer. Those apps will then be available to download later from the cloud.
  • I only post about iOS apps since I don’t have any Android devices.
  • Many SLP apps & AAC apps are very large so I always suggest that you get an iPad with the largest memory you can afford. Even with two 128GB iPad Airs, I am still constantly playing the “app shuffle” where I delete apps to make room to install others.
  • It’s wise to make sure an app is still available in the App Store before you delete it from your iPad since apps occasionally are removed and you would have no way to reinstall it unless you had plugged your iPad into a computer and backed it up to iTunes (a process that I know I should do more frequently).
  • It’s wise to hold off on updating to the latest iOS until it has been out for awhile and the glitches have been worked out (learned that the hard way after one of my iPads “bricked” and had to be restored to factory settings – wiped clean. The process of reinstalling and organizing apps can be tedious and I lost a couple of apps that had not been backed up).
  • It’s wise to toggle off the setting to automatically download app updates. I always look first to see what the update entails.
  • I occasionally receive promo codes to give out in app giveaways. What are app “promo codes”? App developers receive a certain number of promo codes when they release or update an app. They often give these out as a way to help spread the word about their app. If you see a “code drop”, a code is not actually “yours” until you successfully redeem it in the App Store.
  • How do I redeem a promo code? Open the App Store on your iPad. Tap the ‘Featured’ tab on the bottom navigation bar. Scroll down to the bottom and tap the ‘Redeem’ button. Enter the Promo Code and tap the ‘Redeem’ button.
  • What is a “Universal” app? Apps with the “+” sign in the corner are Universal meaning they can work on an iPhone, iTouch or iPad. Sometimes older devices are no longer supported and app developers typically indicate that in the app description.
  • The cool thing about apps is that dependable app developers continue to improve apps over time based on the feedback that they receive from users and release updates to keep apps compatible with the latest iOS operating system. So if you see a glitch in an app or have a suggestion for an improvement, please let that app developer know via e-mail, the contact form on their website or Facebook messaging. Most are very appreciative of feedback from those of use using the product in the trenches. Where else can you purchase something, make suggestions and then get free updates for a product?
  • I usually avoid apps that have ads and in-app purchases since they are distracting to patients. Be sure to know how to adjust the settings on your iPad to prevent kids from making purchases & how to use it in “airplane mode” to block most ads.
  • Guided Access: If you will be using the iPad with kids, then Guided Access is your new BFE (Best. Feature. Ever!). It can be used to disable the home button and lock the child into an app. Especially critical if you will be using the iPad as an AAC device or using it in therapy with kids with poor impulse control. Here is the PDF guide that I share with families. It shows how to set it up step by step: https://omazingkidsllc.com/2015/12/30/how-to-use-guided-access-to-prevent-exiting-an-app-best-feature-ever/
  • How to free up memory on your iPhone or iPad: https://omazingkidsllc.com/2016/11/01/ios-hack-free-up-memory-on-your-iphone-or-ipad/
  • Game Apps & AAC: why these need to be on separate devices:
    https://omazingkidsllc.com/2016/07/31/game-apps-aac-why-these-need-to-be-on-separate-devices/
  • Some great tips & reminders: http://adventuresinspeechpathology.com/the-slps-ipad-resolutions-for-2017/
  • AAC apps and tips on how SLPs can get free access to trial them with patients: https://omazingkidsllc.com/2016/06/11/aac-tips-how-slps-can-get-free-access-to-aac-apps-aac-app-user-groups-funding-options-more/
  • Apps to target core vocabulary: https://omazingkidsllc.com/2016/10/01/appy-aac-awareness-month-favorite-apps-for-teaching-aac-core-vocabulary/
  • Save tons of time, ink & laminating film by saving PDFs of materials to iBooks. The open the document on your iPad for instant no-prep activities.

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Are you an iOS App Developer and would like help beta-testing an app or would like to have your apps featured on OMazing Kids? Feel free to contact me via Facebook Messaging on OMazing Kids (I check it much more frequently than e-mail).

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Angela Moorad, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist
Founder of OMazing Kids, LLC – inclusive wellness & educational activities for kids of all abilities
Facebook Messaging for OMazing Kids: http://m.me/OMazingKidsYoga
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/OMazingKidsYoga
AppPeeps Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/OMazingKidsAppPeeps/
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Boardmaker Share: http://www.boardmakershare.com/Community/FriendsProfile/10916/Angela-Moorad
Blog: http://omazingkidsllc.com
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Angela Moorad is the founder of OMazing Kids, LLC and is an ASHA certified & licensed pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and Kids Yoga Teacher with over 26 years experience working in a variety of settings (early intervention, schools, teletherapy & a nonprofit pediatric rehab hospital for children with developmental disabilities). She is an app beta tester for educational & therapeutic app developers and loves sharing info about great apps, products, books & toys to use with kids of all abilities.
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{please ignore any ads that may appear below. This is a free blog and I don’t have any control over ads nor do I profit from them}

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One response to this post.

  1. […] I highly recommend this app! You could easily spend more than this on a printable of just the rhymes if such a thing even existed on TPT and this app has the rhymes, animated illustrations, video modeling and visual feedback like you would get in a mirror. It’s a perfect example of how an app can be better than the “old school” way of doing speech therapy. See this post for more about use of the iPad as a tool in your SLP toolbox: https://omazingkidsllc.com/2016/06/09/the-ipad-the-slp-toolbox/. […]

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