Speech and language therapist there is NOT an app for that

Date: 16th July 2014

Posted on: 16-07-2014

 An article earlier this month in the Wall Street Journal (New Speech-Therapy Tools Make Practicing at Home Easier) looked at the rise of apps in therapy. There are certainly plenty of articles which have looked at apps in our field, but this one seemed to draw oppostition from therapists.


The concern arose from the suggestion that apps were enabling “speech therapy for children is becoming a do-it-yourself project for parents, thanks to a host of new technology tools and medical devices.” This first line seemed to rattle therapists in the US, despite the article featuring advice from Colleen Worthington, director of clinical education in speech language pathology at the University of Maryland, “Technology is a wonderful tool for facilitating work on speech goals outside the school setting,” she says. “However, you could frustrate a child if you aren’t hitting the right solution.”


ASHA President Elizabeth McCrea responded to the article saying “Thank you for this article highlighting technology in speech-language pathology. While some of the tools featured provide opportunity for children to further refine their skills at home, these are not a replacement for an accurate diagnosis and treatment by a certified speech-language pathologist. Parents should not think of this as a “do it yourself” project, but an important way to supplement appropriate treatment as determined by a professional—which goes far beyond flash cards. As technology has evolved, speech-language pathologists have embraced it. Today, they routinely recommend apps/other tools for use between sessions. However, these are not a substitute for critical individualized treatment from a speech-language pathologist. By seeking a diagnosis as soon as they suspect a problem, parents can improve the chances of successful treatment in a shortened period of time.” 


Therapists took umbridge with the reference to SLT/SLP as “a notoriously sleepy and low-tech field” and the comments following the article document the thoughts of therapists. It’s certainly an interesting time in speech and language therapy, and the increased use of mobile technology and the internet is giving rise to hundreds, if not thousands, of apps and websites which provide information which vary in quality and reliability. Speech and language therapists need to be at the forefront of tehcnology and be able to provide patients, schools and families with advice and expertise. For it is the expertise of SLTs and the evidence base of our practice which we need to continue to promote and which cannot be replaced by an app. Speech and language therapist: there is NOT an app for that!


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