There's an App for That

man on tablet.jpg

There seems to be an app for everything these days, and aphasia treatment is no different.

They can be a convenient way to practice your skills between speech therapy sessions.  They can be useful components to a home program after discharge from speech therapy.  Apps can also be a good way to get that practice and repetition that is needed sometimes to break through a plateau and move to the next step in recovery.

Several brands are on the market, including Linguisystems, Constant Therapy, Tactus Therapy, and SmartyEars.  All have pros and cons.

 Visual instructions for app home program

Visual instructions for app home program

A skilled Speech Pathologist can assess a person's current situation and help recommend apps that could be useful.  It's helpful when you can try out an app before purchasing it. Your SLP may have the app for you to try, or some companies offer free trials.  

Your SLP may write down a few apps to try, or she may provide a more visual step-by-step explanation, depending on the client needs

Today we are focusing on MY opinion of pros and cons, comparing the various app options, based on using the apps with various clients.

Linguisystems

Pros

  • Free

  • Large variety of options/activities

  • A clinician can set up an individualized plan for a client.

  • Charts show progress.

  • Able to use portions without wifi

  • Has menus/schedules ( I LOVE the concept of this as it's so very functional)

Cons

  • Can be S-L-O-W - Good for a slow processing, slow moving client. Very frustrating for average processing or a client with impulsivity or attention issues.

  • The touch-screen can be "fussy" with activating the buttons.

  • Progress charts can be difficult to read.

  • Can be difficult for a client to navigate on his own. Even with a set-up program, the app doesn't move from one task to the automatically. I've had clients get caught in a frustrating infinite loop of the same task over and over again because it didn't go back to the main screen.

 

Constant Therapy

Pros

PRO TIP: Do consult with an SLP to determine which apps are at the right level and take advantage of the free trials to test them out.
I recently had a client’s family ask me about an certain app.  It’s a wonderful app and it will be great WHEN the client is ready.  If he does it now, it will just cause frustration.  
  • Continually expanding variety of tasks and complexities

  • SLP can individualize the plan for the client.

  • Free for the Speech-Language Pathologist.

  • Easy to read charts to monitor progress.

  • They have phoneme-based tasks.

Cons

  • Must be on wifi to use.

  • Monthly/annual fee for users.

 

Tactus Therapy

Pros

  • User-friendly. Relatively easy for consumers to use directly without needing an SLP to set it up.

  • Free trials available for all apps that do give a good overview to test out the app.

  • Excellent customer service - app designer Megan Sutton has her finger on the pulse of what clinicians and people with aphasia need in an app.

  • More customization settings than most others.

  • Doesn't need wifi except to send email. Will hold the email until wifi is connected. This works well for using the app when out and about. I can work on tasks with a client and have the app take data for me, then e-mail it to myself. The email doesn't have any identifying information, but I can edit it to add client initials before I send it. Then it's easy to record the data to track progress.

  • Unique programs available - Their new Apraxia app is excellent for apraxia practice. I also really like their unique Numbers app. It's a common frustration and challenge among people with aphasia, however, isn't addressed nearly often enough. In the past, I've designed my own programs for number treatment, but this app is a viable alternative. Their Advanced Comprehension app includes auditory comprehension of abstract concepts like shapes and colors which can be very challenging for people with aphasia.

Cons

 A page from a client's program.

A page from a client's program.

  • Apps are sold individually. This means you only pay for what you need. But on the other hand, if you use a number of apps, the initial can add up quickly. These are high quality apps though, so the adage "you get what you pay for" definitely applies with Tactus Therapy apps.

  • Home programs can be more complicated. The SLP can write out a program using words and/or images for the client to follow. The client can be taught to easily email results with the push of a button, but there aren't progress charts like some of the other apps.

Depositphotos_21198067 - speech therapy with apps

Access to software / apps

An app is only helpful if you have regular access to it.  The apps in this post are all available on tablets.  

Other programs are only available via the internet on the computer. These often have monthly fees (similiar concept to Constant Therapy). 

Options include: Parrot Software, Bungalow, Aphasia Toolbox.

 

Games that can be good for aphasia practice:

Look for games that work with words. Reading comprehension, rearranging letters, words, associations and scrabble.  

 

Overall, the best app for aphasia recovery?  

The one that is...

  • At the right level, addressing a needed skill

  • Regularly used - It only works if you use it