By Denise McCall, MA, SLP-CCC
Imagine you’re a successful accountant running your own small business. Every day you manage budgets, address clients, and work hard to grow your business. During a stressful day you feel lightheaded and end up in the hospital. A doctor explains that you’ve had a stroke. Your words are jumbled and you have difficulty processing language. A second doctor tells you that you have aphasia.
To many, a stroke and aphasia diagnosis means the end of life as they knew it. At the Synder Center for Aphasia Life Enhancement (SCALE) at the League, and many of the aphasia centers around the country, this is where post-stroke life begins.
At SCALE we serve approximately 50 adults with mild-to-severe-aphasia. Some are recent stroke survivors and others have been living with aphasia for many years. Regardless, these individuals gather weekly in our Baltimore center to participate in group communication classes, language rehabilitation, and socialization. While we use a variety of tools to help our members practice their communication skills, we are able to provide additional opportunities for intense language practice by encouraging the use of free speech therapy apps.
Speech therapy apps are a vital tool many speech-language pathologists (SLPs) rely on to succeed in their practices. Many individuals also independently turn to these tools after they are diagnosed with aphasia.
Here’s why free speech therapy apps matter to SCALE, and why we advocate for all individuals and SLPs to give them a try:
- Try it First: Lite and sample apps allow a clinician and individual with aphasia to “try it before they buy it.” A lite or sample version might present only a few activities, but it’s usually enough to see if the app will work for the individual. If it works, users can purchase the full version. A free app is always free. Downloading it presents an opportunity to see if the app will facilitate communication—the ultimate goal for every individual and clinician. If it does, then it’s a good fit!
- Everyone is different: Let’s be honest, not every app is going to be right for every individual. Some individuals with aphasia need extra help with reading; others need more assistance with writing and speaking. Free apps give you the opportunity to explore multiple exercises and activities without charging a dime!
- Explore together: With a range of free and paid apps in the marketplace, individuals and clinicians can work together to find the appropriate collections of apps that address the communication needs and goals of each user.
- Our members teach us: Free apps come to our facility in a variety of ways. Often times, it’s our members who are discovering the apps on their own. They talk with each other onsite and online about the apps they are using to practice their speech. It’s inspiring to see them take ownership of their recovery.
- Data doesn’t hurt anyone: Some SLPs are concerned about user data collected by app developers. While this is a valid concern, it’s important to remember that most companies de-identify the data before analyzing it (you can find this information in most privacy policies provided by the developer). Also, the data collected and analyzed helps to enhance the app’s features. In fact, many times app developers make improvements based on observed data trends or the feedback they receive from users. Without collecting and analyzing feedback and usage data, it’s hard for developers to know how to advance and improve their platform.
- Free with a catch? Not really: Another common comment I hear about free speech therapy apps is that they aren’t really free. By signing up for a free app, an individual might receive emails, marketing material, or ads. This is a standard practice in the industry and across all apps, for that matter, and many individuals understand that they do not have to participate. Unsubscribing from an email list or selecting another app, are always options.
SCALE is fortunate to have active and vocal members who are passionate about technology and apps and the role they play in rehabilitation. I am pleased to join them in this effort. If you have any questions about how we utilize apps at SCALE or you’d like to learn more about aphasia, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Denise McCall, MA, CCC-SLP, is the Program Director for the Snyder Center for Aphasia Life Enhancement (SCALE) at the League in Baltimore, Md. She is an advocate for the Life Participation Approach to Aphasia (LPAA) and believes technology is a powerful rehabilitation tool for adults with aphasia.