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iMagination expands with iPads: Huron schools using tablet computers in speech therapy

Posted: Monday, Feb 25th, 2013

From left are Peggy Heinz, Buchanan School principal, and Bev Day, speech therapist, holding an iPad, one of the newest forms of technology that is being integrated into the speech therapy program of the Huron School District. Heinz said they have seen some amazing results since they started using the iPads, because it has made learning fun and engaging for the students. PHOTO BY KARA GUTORMSON/PLAINSMAN

HURON — Engaging a child’s imagination is one of the most effective ways of ensuring the child loves to learn, and educators at the Huron School District are using iPads to accomplish that mission.

Peggy Heinz, Buchanan School principal, said she has seen some amazing responses from the students since the district started using iPads in the speech therapy program.

One of the major benefits for the students is that the iPad uses games to make speech therapy fun. “They don’t actually know they are working,” said Heinz. “And every time they are saying a word, our speech therapists are collecting data. The kids that we are teaching now are used to computers, so using the iPad for therapy also helps keep them focused and motivated.”

The Huron School District has five speech therapists, said Heinz. “Each of them has an iPad, and they all use them.”

Speech therapist Bev Day uses the iPads with many different grade levels.

The iPad has many different applications, or apps as they are called, to teach students a variety of skills.

“The device also has the ability to record your own voice,” said Day. “And then the student can listen to their own voice on playback to hear if they pronounced the phrase or word correctly or if they think it could be better.”

Becky Eichstad is a parent who has seen firsthand the strides her daughter is making in the speech therapy program. Her 11-year old daughter, Ellie, has been in speech classes for the past four years. “She has had some issues being able to produce the right sounds on some of her words,” said Eichstad. “But the iPad allows her to hear how she is saying things, and she can listen to it. It’s interactive, and she enjoys the fact that she can learn by playing games.”

Eichstad says the technology makes her daughter more apt to learn and be responsive to it, versus just using a textbook. “I’m so glad the school district has been looking at different options,” she said. “Every child learns differently. This has made a major difference for my daughter, and because it has helped her make so much progress, we are in the process of being dismissed from speech therapy.”

Day explained that the iPads are supplemental to other speech therapy techniques.

“Before we even get to words and sentences we have to be able to produce sounds in isolation and produce them in syllables,” she said. “A lot of that takes practice. Where does your tongue go, what do your lips look like, how does the air come out, that type of thing.”

Day explained how a student becomes enrolled in speech classes. “Usually, it’s by a referral process,” she said. “We can get referrals from teachers, parents, or doctors. After a student has been referred, we can do an evaluation, and then if they qualify on the evaluation, we develop what we call an individual education plan (IEP), which is our plan to help them.”

There is also a program to help children who have difficulty learning to speak. “We also have a birth-to-3 program,” said Day. “They are usually referred to us by doctors. Children in our birth-to- 3 program include late talkers, kids with motor disabilities, down syndrome, there’s a wide variety,” she said. “Our programs to help young children incorporate members of the family as well. You are actually teaching a parent how to use these tools as well.”

Day said before the children in the birth-to-three program turn three, they re-evaluate their needs to find out if they will need services in pre-school.

The other unique aspect of using iPads is that they work well for children who are non-verbal; it gives them a way to interactively communicate to others. “These iPads can actually be used for non-verbal students to communicate with us,” said Day. “The child can actually swipe the screen and can use the tools on the iPad to tell us what he wants.”

Day said she asked the students why they like to use the iPads. “Most of them said things like, ‘I can listen to myself,’ and ‘I hear how good my speech is and I feel better about myself,’ and ‘using the iPad has helped me on tests.’”

For the complete article see the 02-23-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 02-23-2013 paper.

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