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  • Alex Buxton

The evidence for using apps in Speech and Language Therapy

From phonics to prepositions, the insurgence of technology-based learning has gradually changed the shape of Speech and Language Therapy over recent years. This cultural shift maybe regarded with excitement or apprehension within the profession- for what is the actual evidence behind our clinical decision making when recommending our favourite apps? In a world where information is so readily accessible, it can be surprisingly difficult to pinpoint the level of evidence behind some communication apps. With a largely unregulated market and many apps claiming to be effective, it is more important than ever to delve deeper into the ‘why’s’ and the ‘how’s’. However, a lack of transparency into how some apps are developed and evaluated is a significant barrier to this. As with any form of clinical input, it is important that we evaluate the existing evidence in order to make an informed clinical choice. We attempt to do this for other interventions we provide- so why not for the apps that we use?​ One thing we can do is apply appraisal tools that are already available to us. For apps which have published research, we can use the free resources on the CASP website to guide our evaluation of this evidence. The check lists provide a useful tool for us to evaluate evidence at various levels, including Systematic Reviews, Cohort Studies, Randomised Control Trials and Case-Control Studies. For apps with no published work, this is trickier. We might ask ourselves ​why ​there isn’t an evidence base- is it because the creators haven’t allocated the time and resources to do this? This is not to say that apps without published research are definitely ineffective- within our profession, we can often apply interventions where we simply ​know ​it works based on our experience. However, what we must do is be aware that our personal experience, as valuable as it is, is not a substitute for a rigorous and methodologically sound study. The Communication Trust ‘What Works’ database is an invaluable tool in this respect. It allows Clinicians to inform themselves about the variety of interventions available, whilst maintaining an awareness of the differing levels of evidence behind them. Importantly, the database now also includes app/computer-based interventions. This is an exciting time for Speech and Language Therapy; we have at our disposal an increasing number of apps and technology-based programmes which aim to make our lives easier- and more importantly the lives of our children. However, we ​must​ continue to question, consider and challenge the interventions we provide, regardless of whether they are computer-based or not. Although a challenge in itself, we can aspire to do this by using the resources we already have available to us. Helpful links https://casp-uk.net/casp-tools-checklists/ https://www.thecommunicatio ntrust.org.uk/whatworks


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