speech therapy

Smartphones & Speech Therapy: A GR8! Combo

Smartphones in the hands of little ones is generally frowned upon, and usually for good reason. Researchers have linked excess screen time to speech delays, stunted socialization and repetitive motion “tech ache.” BUT – it’s not all bad.

In speech therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral therapy and sometimes even physical therapy, we’ve found at FOCUS Fort Myers that smartphones can have some pretty amazing applications – and we’re discovering new uses all the time! (We LOVE when parents share their own ideas too!)

There is no getting around the fact these small, glowing boxes are an integral part of our daily lives, with approximately 92 million smartphones in the U.S. – a figure that’s still growing. Limits on screen time are important – necessary even (and, let’s be honest, not just for kids). But our FOCUS occupational, behavioral and speech therapists are embracing the many ways this technology has become a key tool in achieving occupational, behavior and speech therapy goals.

Top Five Ways We Use Smartphones at FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers

Oral Motor Therapy Exercises. We target oral motor skills in both occupational and speech therapy because they are important for proper speaking and feeding. These skills include awareness, strength, coordination, movement and endurance of the lips, cheeks, tongue and jaw. It’s something most of us don’t think about, but for a child who is struggling with mastery of these, it can be a significant impairment. We sometimes do this with tools like the Z-Vibe (to normalize sensation) or showing them exaggerated mouth movements for sounds like “ooo” and “puh” and “eee.” But now, we often use our smartphones too. We turn the video camera toward them so they can watch exactly what their mouth is doing. Sure, we could technically use a mirror too, but mirrors don’t have Snapchat filters that give you funny bunny ears.

Timers. So yeah, there are a lot of boring, old-timey timers that we could use, but it’s a lot more fun when you can set silly ringtones for specific reminders of when it’s time for a transition. Timers are great because then WE aren’t the bad guy when it’s time to move on. We can say, “The timer is telling us it’s time to do XYZ.” That way WE (the therapists, teachers, parents, etc.) can be the ones to let children know when it’s time for something fun. We can “play” the good guys, and still get them to do their work.

Motivation. Smartphones can be a powerful motivator for some children, and there are a host of educational apps and activities that are fun and still help us work toward our goals. We may occasionally with some children use the promise of a short game as a reward for diligently working on other target areas.

Parental Playback. If you’re having an issue at home – a behavior or communication trouble – you can film a short clip on your phone to show us exactly what you’re seeing. Speech therapy and occupational therapy and behavior therapy – it’s an overall structured environment. This gives you an opportunity to show us your child in a more natural setting and catch a glimpse into the issues you’re facing on a daily basis – and help you brainstorm solutions and strategies we can incorporate in upcoming sessions. AND – this goes both ways. We can film short clips of your child’s progress during therapy. Because it is a more structured setting and because we are often testing their limits, parents are sometimes a little skeptical when we tell them about an achievement (they trust us, but they also may think silently, “MY kid did that??!”). We can show them solid black-and-white (and Snapchat-filtered) proof – and also give them insight into exactly how we did it. Another great thing about capturing these short clips is we can go back and compare: How was this child doing six months ago? A year ago? Two years ago? Many parents (and us too!) find it a bit emotional to see how far our kids have come.

Yoga or Other Exercise Apps. We can help children learn body awareness and target other key occupational therapy and physical therapy goals by logging into apps or Googling a certain exercise and showing the child exactly how it’s done. Some apps can also track speed, distance and other stats, which can be motivating and rewarding when we can show them exactly how they were faster/ farther/ better than last time.

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it does offer a glimpse of some of the ways we can use smartphones to our advantage in your child’s therapy session. We’d love to hear if you have more ideas!

FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Letting a baby play on an iPad might lead to speech delays, study says, May 4, 2017, CNN

More Blog Entries:

Why Our FOCUS Speech and Occupational Therapists LOVE Puppets, April 2, 2018, FOCUS Speech Therapy Blog