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Online Coaching with Joan Green, M.A. CCC-SLP: Learn from your home or office on a computer or tablet then share recorded sessions with othersSeptember 22, 2012
The Internet is buzzing with lists of “best apps” , “app reviews” and blogs about the latest and greatest technologies. Which ones are right for you?
I have been doing more and more online coaching and can see it playing an increasingly large part of my private speech-language pathology practice. Innovative Speech Therapy has evolved quite a bit over the years. I used to have quite a few employees and I remember a discussion with one of them back in the 90s about how one of my goals was to help people from a distance and show them how technology could help them reach their goals faster. That time is here. I finally have the technology to turn this plan of mine into a reality.
Here is how it works:
1. Sign up– You register for a time slot at http://ist.ticketleap.com. There are three areas on that site- one for workshops, one for webinars and one for online coaching. Select a date and time and register by paying with your credit card and answering a couple of questions. I ask what you want to learn and prepare for our session in advance to make the most of our time together. I can help as much or as little as you want and need. If one of the available time slots doesn’t work for you- email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with some days and times and I’m sure we can work something out. Timing can be tricky for participants on the other side of the globe:)
2. Payment: Each clinical hour (50 min) costs $140.00. I do have a number of scholarships available for nonprofits and individuals who are unable to afford this price. Contact me to discuss your situation.
3. What you need to participate– We can have our session on the phone and talk- but it is much more effective when I can show you apps, software and online sites on your screen and how to use them. To do this, you need to have high speed internet access. Our session will work on a computer (PC or a MAC) or tablet (iPad or Android Tablet.) It will also work on a Smartphone- but the screen isn’t ideal- it is so small. We can arrange to see each other as we speak- or not. To hear each other we can use VOIP (speak and listen thru the computer or tablet if you download a small program), use a phone (it may be long distance for you) or Skype (free but you have to have an account.)
I have special screen sharing software that I use that is very high quality and have a way to show you iPad apps in action. I now have thousands of iDevice apps and will pre-select the ones I think are best for you. I also have an Android tablet- but not as many apps. You don’t have to download any software unless you want to speak thru the computer or see images of me on my webcam which really isn’t needed. If you want to use your iPad or Android tablet for this session you will have to download a free app. Prior to our session I would ask that you make sure you have enough bandwidth and no firewall issues. I will give you guidance on how to do that.
4. Content of our discussion– One of the questions you will need to answer during the registration process will be what you most want to learn. It is helpful for me if you type in the text box a bit about your situation- the technology tools you have such as a computer or tablet and which type- the goals you are working on- what you have already tried and what you would like to see. Many of you realize you don’t know what you don’t know and may just leave the bulk of the content up to me to decide. I will spend time in advance selecting the technology tools that I think you may find the most helpful.
5. Participants- Up to 3 people can participate on your end. It could be more- but then it is more of a customized presentation/webinar than brainstorming/coaching session. Each person can be in his/her own home or office- there is no need to be in one location. Participants may be family members living in different parts of the country, therapists, educators or anyone else who is interested. It’s fine if the individual with the challenges is online- but this is not a therapy session and should not be considered as such. I am only licensed to provide speech therapy in MD, VA and DC. If you live in one of those states I may be able to provide distance therapy- otherwise I am just coaching participants about what I have found to be helpful with others in similar situations.
6. Recording– After the session, I will provide the participants the ability to view the recorded session for up to 2 weeks. If desired, I can also send a link with the ability to view the recorded session to a few other individuals who are involved. It’s often hard to get everyone together at one time for a live coaching session- and this way people can watch it at a time more convenient to them. It’s a great way to share information about strategies for using the selected apps and other technology tools to work with a specific individual toward selected goals.
7. Professional Development/ Fundraising – This coaching scenario is also ideal for professionals who are looking for affordable ways to learn more about using technology to help their students/clients/patients. There is a different fee structure- but the concept is the same. For large groups of people I can turn it into a webinar- many people can be online at the same time from different locations. I have worked with private speech pathology practices, rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, vocational re-entry programs, recreational therapists, special educators, occupational therapists, tutors, neuropsychologists, graduate school professors, aphasia groups, state speech pathology associations and advocacy groups. I customize a presentation for all who can participate live- from any location- then record it and make it available for viewing when convenient. It is a great way to offer continuing education opportunities. Organizations can even use it to raise money for their organization:) Contact me at email@example.com or 1-800- IST-2550 / 301-602-2899 to discuss how this would work in your situation.
This week during one of my online coaching sessions I learned that I had not yet featured Grasshopper Apps. I was surprised because I feature them all the time in my workshops. They are wonderful!!! There is a wide selection of apps. There are apps to help with reading, speaking, math, comprehension, thinking, coordination, problem solving and creativity. The apps are very affordably priced- and many are free. The graphics are gorgeous- appropriate for kids or adults. They are all visually appealing and intuitive to use. The apps are all customizable so that they can be configured to meet the needs of the user. There are also some that work on functional skills- time and money. Many of them automatically get easier or harder depending on the accuracy of the responses.
It’s important when using these apps as well as others to extend the learning outside of the app. Find ways to carry over the newly learned skills in fun activities beyond the iPad or iPhone. Make sure to really take a look at all of the features so that you get the most out of the app- don’t just assume it is appropriate as it initially presents itself. The most effective therapists, teachers and parents adapt the app or the way it is used to best meet the needs of the individual.
I found myself using these apps all the time in therapy- with children as well as adults….
- ABC Alphabet Phonics
- Sight Words by Photo touch
- Little Speller
- Tell Time- Little Matchups Game
- Kids Learning- Photo Touch Concepts
- Count Money- Coin Matching Game for Kids
- Telling Time- Photo Touch Game
- Little Matchups- The Matching Game for Toddlers
As of yesterday, Sept.19, Apple has their newest mobile operating system available in the desktop iTunes app or online for iPhone 3GS and newer, iPad 2, iPad 3, and the fourth generation iPod touch. Apple is adding about 200 updates to the new operating system. Some of the features are not available on all of the devices- especially the older ones. Here is a link with more detailed information http://www.apple.com/ios/whats-new/
There are quite a few new features that I am especially looking forward to using with my iPhone and iPad- but I am going to hold off for a while on installing iOS6. I want to play it safe and wait for all the app developers to catch up with the changes prior to downloading this new operating system so that I avoid bugs and crashes. It’s hard to believe- but Apple keeps app developers in the dark until shortly before it releases new devices and operating systems and then there is a race to update the apps so that they will work properly.
Here are few of the changes I am most looking forward to trying:
Guided Access – This feature will enable us to limit the device to a single app by disabling the home button or restrict touch on certain parts of the screen. This will be a great solution for those of us who help individuals who keep exiting the apps we want to be working on. It will help users stay on task and avoid closing apps by mistake. I believe that this feature was added with kids on the Autism spectrum in mind- but I also work with many adults who have cognitive challenges for whom this feature will be very helpful.
Highlighting words as they are said aloud– Research has proven that reading skills improve and individuals with reading disabilities are helped when words are highlighted as text is read aloud. For many years I have used a wide variety of software that provides these types of assistance for students with learning differences as well as for adults who have aphasia. This feature is now going to be included with this new operating system. I am not sure if each word will be individually highlighted or the sentence will be highlighted- but am looking forward to giving this feature a try.
Facetime will work with 3G– Facetime is an iDevice app that allows you to see people as you speak to them. The participants have to both be in Wi-Fi not just 3G or 4G. With this new upgrade- it will be possible to see people and speak to them just with 3G. I can imagine all sorts of ways this can be used to help individuals with communication challenges! Showing live images of actions, people, and items can often convey messages that words may not be able to.
Options for Answering iPhone Calls -When there is a call on a device with iOS 6, it will ask if you’d like a reminder to call back later, or to reply with a text. There will be preset text options like, “I’ll call you later,” or “What’s Up?” This will be great for individuals who are in a noisy location, a doctor’s office or have writing skills that are better than speaking ability. There will also be a “Do Not Disturb” feature which will block calls, texts, alerts and notifications. The user can designate specific callers who can get thru or the feature will turn off when someone calls twice in a short period of time.
GPS Directions Aloud – The Apple Maps app will be accessible directly from the lock screen and include a 3-D image of the desired location.
App Locks- We will be able to password protect apps that we don’t want others to use. This will be very helpful as part of the “pass back” phenomenon- when parents pass their devices back to kids in the car to help them behave well.
I look forward to giving these new features a try when I feel it is safe for me to download iOS 6. I use my ipad every day and want to give time for the developers to work out any issues that might have arisen from this upgrade. On the flip side- I am a bit hesitant about some of the changes not listed above. Facebook is more closely integrated into the new iOS, I am more of a Facebook lurker than poster. I am inclined to keep much of what I do private and don’t revel in frequent posting and updates. I also use Google quite a bit and know that Google Maps and YouTube will no longer be native applications, pre-loaded on the devices, as the Apple and Google go their separate ways. I know that new apps will be developed and all will be fine- it’s just more to figure out.
I am hosting a number of workshops and webinars on using the iPad and other technologies to help children and adults who have a wide range of communication, cognitive, literacy and learning challenges. To learn more about me and what I do check out www.innovativespeech.com. For specific information about upcoming workshops and webinars and to register go to www.ist.ticketleap.com.
Each time I prepare to teach a graduate student class, train a group of therapists or provide therapy for a client, I spend time making sure my information is up to date. I recently taught a symposium at George Washington University titled,“AAC Devices and Implementation Strategies to Promote Success: An Update on Cutting-Edge Technologies for Augmentative and Alternative Communication”. Although I have been immersed in this world of AAC for quite a while and use many iPad apps as well as more traditional devices, as I gathered information and prepared for the presentation, I became even more aware of how much the entire world of AAC including its purpose, products and delivery model have changed.
Back in the mid-1980s when I attended Northwestern University, I took an elective AAC class. I remember it well. I learned about devices produced by well-known companies such as Prentke Romich and Dynavox. We learned a formal very lengthy AAC protocol to help us decide which device would be best for individuals with significant communication needs from congenital challenges such as Cerebral Palsy or degenerative diseases such as MS or ALS. We wrote comprehensive reports which included measurable goals to use in therapy. There was a long process to go through to obtain funding of the machines that were many thousands of dollars. I recall spending hours reading manuals so that I could try to customize the vocabulary content to meet the user’s needs.
Fast forward to now. AAC has existed for about 40 years. The types of technologies that provide augmentative and alternative communication functions have grown exponentially. The way our society communicates is changing. Texting, email, video calls, text to speech and speech to text technologies are becoming mainstream. There are now many technology tools available that can help people express themselves. Cell phones, tablets, SmartPhones, Skype, Facebook, and technology devices with vocal output, have worked their way into mainstream society and are readily available to all. Speech-language pathologists are no longer the gatekeepers to the AAC world. It is now more affordable and easy to access AAC solutions.
There are pros and cons to this situation. On the positive side, more individuals who have difficulty expressing themselves now have easier access to potential solutions to improve the quality of their lives. Affordable technologies are finding their way into the lives of individuals who in the past might have spent their lives unable to effectively communicate. There are now more than 200 AAC apps in iTunes alone and more and more are becoming available in the Android marketplace.
The problem is that very often individuals who have complex communication needs (CCN) are frequently not provided with the most appropriate tools and training to develop and maximize their communication skills. It is critical to consider the strengths, communication needs, goals, interests, and characteristics of each person as well as typical language development. There should also be an effort made to appropriately reinforce communication attempts, model the use of the device, and expand newly learned skills into the home and daily routines. I strongly encourage individuals to seek professional guidance from a qualified speech-language pathologist when choosing and using AAC apps. In my practice, families are coming to me with a number of AAC apps that they found already on their iPads- but they don’t know how to go about configuring them or using them to help their loved ones. This often leads to frustration and abandonment.
When I work with individuals who have limited communication abilities, I have found that I often have to work with other apps and toward goals such as first establishing joint attention, promoting the concept of cause/effect and working on ways to motivate individuals to initiate communication and interact with the iPad or other device. I have found the built-in features of the iPad and many free and low cost apps make therapy more engaging and efficient in reaching these initial goals as well as helping people advance to more involved communication tasks.
Tablets with AAC apps are not necessarily the best solutions for individuals with difficulty using their hands to touch pictures and words to be said aloud by a device. Not all consumer products- even those with many accessibility options such as the iPad – meet the needs of every person. When working with adults who have aphasia or individuals with severe autism spectrum disorder the task of learning to use AAC apps to communicate is complex. It is a bit less complex when the lack of communication is due to speech or voice disorder as opposed to a language or cognitive disorder. There are also individuals with significant physical disabilities who may need to use eye gaze or scanning to access the technology. A multidisciplinary team including a physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist and an assistive technology expert is ideal in this situation. It is important that if an iPad is to be used with a person with significant physical limitations, the person selecting the apps and training the individual be familiar with issues relating to seating, positioning, and the apps that are switch accessible as well as recent products using alternate ways to access the iPad..
Many of the products that have been around for a long time have had years of research to support the many features they offer in terms of teaching language and facilitating verbal expression. An increasing number of products are becoming available for tablets- but the products are new. The research on their efficacy has just begun. In addition, if a tablet computer is indeed the product of choice, there is a great deal of planning that needs to go into configuring the device and teaching the individual how to most effectively use it. Careful consideration needs to be given to :
• Language representation- What is the best way to present words and concepts? Photos of people and items in a person’s environment, abstract images, and printed words can be used.
• Visual display- How many images or words should be presented at one time? Should a person have a finite group from which to select or should the person be able to scroll for more choices and produce novel messages?
• Word selection- What needs to be communicated? There is much more to life than just naming objects. Comments, requests and questions are an integral part of communication.
• Communicative Intent- Does the individual need to be externally motivated to communicate? How are the person currently communicating and what further skills need to be developed?
• Communication Abilities- What are the language, speech, cognitive and social skills of the person?
• Implementation Plan- How will the device be configured and what are the strategies for successful implementation of the device into daily routines? How much support is available? Who will continue to update the device as the needs of the individual change?
Even if families do turn to communication professionals for comprehensive assessments- the speech-language pathologists are confronted with a number of dilemmas. How should the availability of these new products change the traditional AAC assessment and intervention process? Should professionals wait for research to take place as new products become available prior to using them in their professional practices?
The following online resources may be helpful for individuals trying to learn more about this exciting but complicated field of AAC during this transformation:
The SETT framework – Joy Zabala’s model to be used in the collaborative decision-making process in all phases of assistive technology and AAC selection and implementation.
AAC TechConnect – A site filled with great suggestions and resources re AAC
Children’s Hospital Boston– An AAC feature matching resource
Spectronics AAC Apps – A wonderful blog by Jane Farrall- a SLP and special educator in Australia who is passionate about literacy, assistive technology and AAC
AAC Institute– A compilation of helpful AAC resources
AAC Language Lab– Great information on language stages and helpful teaching resources provided by Prentke Romich Company
Learning Paths – Many wonderful resources provided by Dynavox
Innovative Speech Therapy– Newsletters, Workshops, Lectures, Webinars,Special Reports, Consultations and Therapy
- customizable keyboards- text, voice and photos can be added to keys
- text to speech- words and sentences can be read aloud by a natural sounding voice. This feature helps people maintain attention to task, and become aware of errors when something doesn’t sound correct and may even help with word selection.
- voice recording- many individuals are able to verbalize what they struggle to capture in written form
- picture support- photos and images can be used to help with expression or to provide prompts
- word prediction- this feature is very helpful for spelling accuracy as well as word retrieval
I have been using the Abilpad app successfully to help a number of students as well as adults who prefer the smaller and more portable iPad for their writing – yet need help with spelling, thinking of words and typing. My favorite keyboard is produced by Logitech. I actually purchased mine a while ago at Costco. I also use it as my cover.
Rainbow sentences was developed by Kyle Tomson who founded the Mobile Education Store which offers a series of excellent educational apps. This app is a great tool to work on reading comprehension and sentence structure as well as verbal expression. Color coded visual cues accompany engaging graphics to help users produce grammatically correct sentences. There are 6 levels of sentence complexity and 165 images from which to create sentences. I find that I can use this with a wide range of clients due to the flexible nature of the app. Creative users can use it to work on written expression, visual scanning and eliciting verbal narrative in addition to reading comprehension and sentence formulation.
The user is presented with a colorful picture with text below- which may be color coded or grouped to simplify the task. The text is spoken aloud as it is dragged to the space above the picture to create sentences. Once the sentence is created the user is prompted to record the sentence in their own voice and these recording can be saved or emailed. Successful sentence completion is rewarded with a puzzle piece to encourage continued play and the puzzle comes to life at the end of the level.
I have been using this app with students as well as adults. The app costs $7.99.
To view a video of the app in action and a demonstration of the various options/settings click here.