Appy Learning with The Speech Techie

June 29, 2015 by - Leave your thoughts

Appy Learning with the Speech Techie
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Appy Learning with the Speech Techie

What a wonderful way to start off a summer of learning! Last week, I was fortunate to be able to sit alongside a wonderful group of SLPs, OTs, teachers, and graduate Appy Learning with the Speech Techiestudents and participate in two full days of learning from  Sean Sweeney, known to many of you as The Speech Techie. Thanks to the generous support of the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Centers for Autism and Related Disabilities (UM-NSU CARD) and the Partnership for Effective Programs for Students with Autism (PEPSA), funded by the Florida Department of Education, Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services, we were able to offer this workshop for free.

The topic, Apps in Context: Aligning Technology with Methodologies and Clinical Objectives for Students with Autism, is one that is near and dear to my heart. Like many on you, I am always looking for new ways to engage AAC learners, and using fun apps is a great way to do that.

Because Sean is such an experienced presenter, he was able to send us an app list in advance so that we could each download free/low-cost apps prior to the workshop. There were lots of busy hands tapping, swiping, and playing with these apps as those in attendance explored and began to customize these apps for their students with autism. The main ones that he covered were:


Sean’s style of presenting was a great match for our needs. He started by discussing his process for evaluating apps, then introduced us to the apps, covering the main features, some of the how-to’s, and plenty of ideas for implementation. Interspersed among the sections was some excellent discussion of how they align with evidence-based practice. I came away with equal parts information and inspiration. Here were some of my take-aways that seemed most applicable to an AAC audience.

  • Keep challenging yourself to learn more about the apps that you already have and use. I’m a big fan of Pic Collage, for instance, but Sean challenged me to learn and use features that I had not yet explored. (Psst! Did you know that you could trim around a photo to exclude the background?)
  • Consider new uses for familiar apps. My own use of Pic Collage, for example, has centered mostly around vocabulary instruction. I hadn’t thought of using it to visually display the steps of an activity or to co-create a scene for describing/narrative work.
  • Combine the use of apps with hands-on learning and play experiences. Sean gave some wonderful examples of this concept, such as using Toca Tea Party along with having a real-life tea party. We can build so many language skills by seating ourselves (or characters) around the table, assigning roles (e.g., “Who wants to be the pourer?”), and interacting with the materials both in the app and with real toys in our sessions.

Two other wonderful things rounded out this experience. One was a lovely banner in support of Sharonda Coleman Singleton, an NSU doctoral student working in the area of AAC who was gunned down in the Charleston shooting earlier this month. NSU’s Health Professions Division and the College of Health Care Sciences, created this and allowed our workshop attendees to add caring messages before shipping this off to Sharonda’s family and faith community.Appy Learning with The Speech Techie

We also had some wonderful support from the community of special education, SLP, and AAC app developers, who were kind enough to donate app codes and subscriptions in honor of Robin Parker. Robin, the co-founder of this blog and my dear friend and colleague for 20+ years, loved nothing more than getting resources into the hands of professionals who would truly implement them. I could feel her smiling as we handed out dozens of codes to our workshop participants. You can hover over the image at the bottom of this post and click on the icons to learn more about all the apps and subscriptions that were donated for this event. We are so grateful for their support of this event.

We are hoping to have Sean back with us in the not-too-distant future to continue to build our skills at implementing apps within the context of rigourous instruction and well-designed therapy sessions. Stay tuned!

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This post was written by Carole Zangari

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