Should Technology be part of a Speech, Language and Social Communication Session?

We live in a world that accesses information in the blink of an eye. Google searches, voice activated tools for the home and news headlines pinging to life on the screen every morning with the school day alarm. I know two year olds who can work my smartphone better than I can! Technology is an amazing resource but as a Speechie it leaves me with a big question.

What cost is technology having on speech, language and social development? Should we as therapists hold on to our traditional ideologies of communication development or should we embrace the tech, get out of our comfort zone and adapt our therapy to provide children with the skills they will need as adults. Will we really go to work anymore when we can check in online and record what we do from the comfort of our own homes? I actually quite like the idea of pyjama wearing, coffee drinking, sofa surfing therapy sessions!

I’ve practised now for twelve years and have been the sibling of a young man with severe communication and learning differences for 30. I’ve seen what technology can do for someone who is less able to communicate verbally. I’ve witnessed children light up when they can use a voice to get something they want or need from their parent. I’ve observed how for passive children, using an iPad can motivate them and engage them in a therapy session to help build that ever so important rapport. In short, technology can be a fantastic resource but with careful consideration of how it is used.

Here are my top tips and app recommendations for you:

  1. Provide structured use of technology. Hold the iPad, sit together and share the tool just like you would look at a book together. Use a schedule to indicate technology time and follow it with a really motivating activity such as snack or rough and tumble play so that finishing the iPad isn’t so tricky.
  2. Use a timer! 10-15 minutes is plenty of time for using the device together. If necessary show your child the sequence of applications you will use together on a visual timetable. Always ty to finish with an app your child isn’t so engaged with so that finishing is easier. Remember to give warnings to finished and remind your child what is happening next.
  3. Use applications that have a natural pause so you can create opportunities for your child to request more of the activity. I absolutely swear by Inclusive Technology apps. These are an absolute dream for therapy sessions as they play…pause and need to be pressed back into action.
  4. Keep the iPad out of reach. Kitchen cupboards are great because you can generally place a symbol or photo of the device on the cupboard door creating an opportunity for communication to occur if your child wants the device!
  5. Engage children in story telling using the device. Interactive stories or video tales can be a fabulous way of developing a whole therapy or play session. Watch the video, read the book, do some art and craft linked to the story. Alternatively, use the camera and make your own individualised story by making a slideshow with music in the background.
  6. Use the device for functional activities. Morning routines, setting alarms to remind you about medication or appointments and equipment. Teenagers who still need visual schedules can be more inclined to set up their visual aides on a smart phone or tablet. This allows them to fit in as who doesn’t have a device going beep or buzz in the day. Inform school that your child needs to have their phone on vibrate to cue them in. Get school involved in setting up the most appropriate alert times and helping you plan what equipment reminders or room changes your child needs to remember that week!


Check out some of these applications:

Application Age Best For…
Inclusive Technology All ages and abilities

Requesting more
Predicting what next

Zones Junior and early secondary Supporting understanding of emotional regulation strategies and emotions
See me go potty Early Years. Supporting toileting routines
Lego animals, food and trains Early Years Cause and effect
Stop and go
Turn taking
Following instructions
Grimace Junior Practicing emotions
Facial expression
Predicting speech
Predicting thoughts based on emotions



August 2018

Hayley Best Let’s Talk Autism


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