Assistive Technology in Speech Language Pathology

What is Speech-Language Pathology?

Speech Language Pathology is a field of practice comprised of speech-language pathologists who identify, assess, and treat speech, language, and swallowing disorders. To learn more about the field of Speech Language Pathology, visit asha.org. 

Assistive Technology in the Field of Speech Language Pathology:

When taking a closer look at the field of speech and language therapy, it is important to examine the incorporation of AT devices in the field. AT devices are utilized by individuals across the lifespan from nonverbal or minimally verbal children to adults who need AT devices to communicate their needs. AT devices are used to aid individuals with complex communication needs (CNN) in communication and are referred to as augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) (Cook & Polgar, 2015). According to Anderson et al. (2012), an average of four million individuals in America are unable to communicate their daily needs through natural speech. The population of nonverbal or minimally verbal individuals typically have goals in accessing natural speech, or using AAC devices when natural speech is not an option. AT can take the form of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, speech generating devices (SGD), auditory feedback devices, eye gaze boards, switch panels, etc. which all fall under the AT umbrella. The term ‘Tele-AAC’ has been coined as the use of AAC devices for assessment, consultation, and intervention through teletherapy (Anderson et al., 2014). A challenge of tele-AAC includes a lack of individuals trained in AAC to be able to provide adequate services (Anderson et al., 2012). Although AAC devices can include various modes of modalities, a more specific option can include speech generating devices (SGD).

Hall et al. (2014) conducted a case study involving the effectiveness of telepractice compared to face-to-face services using an SGD. The study was completed to address shortages in speech language pathologists (SLPs) trained in AAC use, and to see if telehealth could be used as an alternative means to in-person treatment. Hall et al. (2014) discovered non-significant differences between service delivery methods, and concluded progress towards target goals in each approach, lending support that use of AAC technology is just as effective as face-to-face methods. Although caution is advised when interpreting results due to the nature of it being a case study and having limited research on AAC use in teletherapy, this study provides support for the use of teletherapy with AAC devices, especially for individuals who lack access to a more traditional in-person delivery method (Hall et al., 2014). Research concludes AT devices to be promising in the field of speech-language pathology as well as many other disciplines.