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Being Conscious Caretakers of Communication Opportunities Created by New Technologies in Children's Speech and Language Therapy - featured June 24, 2011

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Being Conscious Caretakers of Communication Opportunities Created by New Technologies in Children's Speech and Language Therapy

By: Megan Bratti, MS, CCC-SLP

Last year I wrote, Embracing the potential benefits of using new technologies in children’s speech and language therapy – or rather; Getting to know children’s digital language in order to be better Speech-Language Pathologists and parents. Now in 2011, the journey continues. We, SLPs, siblings, parents, teachers, must continue, or start - to be caretakers, facilitators, teachers, and moderators of precious moments of shared attention created by these new technologies.

Tech devices and tools of any kind are used in order to engage and maintain the attention of children, which is the essential ingredient for communication opportunities. It is only through gaining attention of a child that the joint attention, engagement, attachment and communication opportunities of bonding, playing and learning can happen. We must remember that an opportunity can be defined as a good chance for advancement or progress. And we must be the emotional, social, human caretakers of these chances for advancement and progress that are not always given the care they deserve.

Caution: This communication opportunity must be held and nurtured. It is a precious thing.

Caution: You must be a conscious caretaker of a communication opportunity.

Caution: It is only through human feedback that the tool and the opportunity can be constructive.

All types of tools, whether they be books, bubbles, iPads, smartphones, crocodile dentists, white boards, or silly bandz, which all create communication opportunities - require constant human caretaking. You must think of yourself as part of a feedback loop: Child --> human caretaker (SLP) --> tool (tech device) --> human caretaker (SLP) --> child. Our brains are made up of mirror neuron cells. We are all simulators, players and parts of feedback loops. Play is mirroring. Play is simulation. Play is learning. Play is social. Children need us - SLPs, teachers, siblings, parents – to be facilitators, moderators, models, teachers, mirrors, and caretakers of these precious communication opportunities that new tech tools, like the iPad contribute to creating.

The world is moving so fast that it is sometimes difficult to keep up with the ever increasing and changing tech tools that surround our every move. There is help though. I have found that Facebook and Twitter are great professional resources. These are welcoming places with wonderful people to share and learn from. I recommend joining Facebook open groups: SLPeeps, Dysphagia Therapy, iTeach Special Education - iDevices in Special Education, Assistive Technology as well as following Twitter hashtags: #slpeeps, #audpeeps. We are mirror neurons in human form and what better mirror neurons are there than professional peers in social networking?

Apps and iPads are a great way to gain a child’s attention. There are many apps out there for iOS tech devices, like my iPad or Android smartphone. Many are good; lots are not so good. I find that what apps you like totally depend on your personal preferences and needs. Just because one person you know likes it, or the review said it was good - or even that a professional made it - does not guarantee usefulness for you, personally. Everything is relative. The best way to know if an app is right is to play with it! Play and learn! Exercise those mirror neurons!

I offer you a list of some useful apps I have used in therapy with preschool and school aged children in order to establish communication opportunities: Don't have an iOS device like an iPad or smartphone? Don’t worry. You can get lots of information from fellow SLPeeps and other professionals on their blogs or websites on the Internet. Look for their great recommendations of apps, resources, therapies, links and many other blogs (often also on Facebook and Twitter) – I cannot fit them all! Caution: Communication opportunities - created by any tool - must be engaged and nurtured.

Caution: It is only through social, emotional, human feedback that the tool and the opportunity can be constructive in bonding, playing, learning and communicating.

Embrace new technologies in children's speech and language therapy in 2011 by being a conscious caretaker of precious communication opportunities created by new technologies in the ever-revolving feedback loop. Children need us - SLPs, teachers, siblings, parents - as facilitators, moderators, models, teachers, mirrors, and caretakers of precious communication opportunities that new tech tools, like the iPad contribute to creating. Be a conscious caretaker of your profession’s present and future as well. Join in the conversation through social networks by participating in professional learning. Remember, it is not the tool, but rather what you do with that tool!





This Month's Featured Author: Megan Bratti, MS, CCC-SLP

Megan Bratti, M.S., CCC-SLP is an independent contractor for AlphaVista Services Inc. in Silicon Valley, California. Megan is the co-founder of Avocado Technologies, a Professional Learning Network (PLN) for sharing on Facebook /avocadotech and Twitter @avocadotech. Email with Megan at [email protected]

Tags: Article SLP Language Newsletter 24 June 2011