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Tech In Therapy Part 2: ABA and Speech

Image of Bobbie Byrd
Bobbie Byrd

Technology plays an integral role not only in everyday life, but in therapy and rehabilitation methods as well! In part one of our "Tech In Therapy" #rtblogseries, we explored technological advancements in both occupational therapy and physical therapy, but today's part two will delve deeper into how digital applications in addition to communication devices have changed the way applied behavior analysts and speech-language pathologists interact with their patients.

Differentiating ABA and Speech Therapy

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a type of therapy that strives to improve social skills, reinforce specific behaviors and promote adaptive learning to people who struggle due to developmental conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Often accompanying ABA, speech-language pathology (SLP) focuses on evaluating and treating communication issues, including voice disorders and problems with swallowing. When it comes to developing treatment plans in these areas, modern technology offers a variety of powerful tools for both of these disciplines, providing an abundance of communication options for patients and therapists alike.

Technology In Applied Behavior Analysis and Speech Therapy

Technology, especially when it's customizable or configurable, can improve the efficiency of ABA and speech therapy by not only more efficiently holding the patient’s attention, but by reinforcing their motivation as well. For this reason, it's important for therapists to stay informed on the ever-changing technology landscape that is applicable to their field or specialty. 

iPhone Apps

Apple devices offer a variety of apps for applied behavioral analysis and speech therapy that can enhance patient experiences for people of all ages. While nowadays, many children and teens naturally gravitate to technology, adult patients with medical conditions or developmental delays who need help improving their conversational skills and social interaction abilities often need to be fundamentally introduced to digital resources, such as apps like these:

  • Articulation Station. Created by speech-language pathologists, this app provides a comprehensive articulation program and offers multiple activities to help kids practice sounds at the word, sentence and story level.  
  • Splingo. This app enhances listening and language skills through fun, interactive games that focus on parts of speech.
  • iConverse. Designed with the needs of individuals with autism in mind, iConverse is an augmented alternative communication (AAC) app that is especially valuable to those who have trouble with verbal expression to convey their basic needs. 

Wearable Technology

This rapidly advancing field provides opportunities for successful individualized intervention. For example, an ABA therapist may use a touch screen wearable device to enhance communication with a non-verbal child. The child can touch pictures on the screen to show understanding and in turn, the therapist could use the touch screen for matching or sequencing exercises. 

Neural Command Technology

Although it sounds like a concept from science fiction, emerging technology now allows people to use their brainwaves to control communication devices! In particular, companies are developing headsets that can integrate with speech-generating devices in order to address the challenges that come with developmental disorders, stroke recovery as well as treating conditions such as Parkinson's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). 

Hearing Aids

Technological advances in recent years have rendered hearing aids virtually undetectable, making for a more comfortable experience for those hard of hearing. In more current times, new hearing aid technologies have emerged that analyze the acoustic environment, filtering out sounds that are not recognized as speech. Additionally, these devices can enrich music to simulate "high definition" delivery, a massive win for both accessibility and quality of life!

Assistive Communication Devices

With the help of assistive communication devices, applied behavioral analysts and speech therapists can increase session productivity, giving patients more ways to express themselves accurately. For example, a therapist can supply a device with pre-recorded messages that a patient can select in order to convey their meaning. This particular technique is especially beneficial for those who already have some language ability and are capable of gaining more.

Telehealth Technologies

During the recent pandemic, many ABA therapists were faced with the need to switch to telehealth to deliver continuity of care. Through trial and error, these three technologies proved especially valuable in a virtual care environment: 

  • Web cameras. A common piece of equipment, a web camera uses video conferencing software to transmit virtual interactions in real-time. They are easily accessible and included in most devices, like laptops, tablets and cell phones. Setup requirements are minimal and an extensive selection of features is also available.
  • Swivl. This video consultation device can rotate 360 degrees, allowing it to follow and record a presenter who is connected via a tablet. A transmitter worn on a lanyard by the presenter emits a signal to notify the device of the wearer's movement. A built-in microscope can record the presenter's speech while additional transmitters can record more than one individual when synced.
  • Telepresence robot. This device is a videoconferencing screen, such as a tablet, that is mounted on a wheelable base. It can be controlled remotely, providing a more physical presence than the previously mentioned technologies. In fact, ABA therapists can navigate the robot through the environment, which may help to develop and maintain personalized rapport with patients, specifically younger children.

Reinforcing Technology With Patient Interests

Individuals with ASD are often attracted to technology, so ABA professionals can leverage this interest by recommending beneficial technology-based leisure activities to reinforce key skills. Often, enjoyable activities can be potent reinforcers, allowing patients to practice skills in targeted areas between therapy sessions. For example, a recent study found that when used as part of an ABA therapy program at home, Google Glass helped students make greater gains in detecting emotions and socializing effectively than those receiving ABA therapy alone. While Google Glass is no longer as accessible as it was in the past, therapists can still select from hundreds of educational apps that are available for use as motivators.

Technology In Therapy

By embracing technology to drive a more patient-centered approach, applied behavior analysis and speech-language pathology are making strides that were unthinkable decades ago. Raintree Systems puts you ahead of this curve with our therapist-friendly "Software-as-a-Relationship" platform, which includes features such as interoperable billing, flexible, specialty specific EMR and interactive reporting. Through innovation, our technology-enabled solutions allow you to unlock therapists' full potential and most importantly, provide higher quality patient care.

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