Approaches to Assessment: Technology and Therapist, Working in Partnership
The use of technology to support child learning is becoming increasingly prevalent. There are now apps available and in development which can be used for a variety of purposes, including the assessment of communication needs. So where does an actual Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) fit into this? If there is an app to assess a child’s needs, do we even need a SLT at all? We might ponder this question in relation to apps such as Language Explorer.
In the current climate, SLTs face a number of challenges- none more so than time. Budget cuts and increased caseloads have sadly resulted in pressurised staff having to provide high-quality assessments within a limited timeframe. This is where our new friend, technology, comes in. SLTs might use technology to provide the solution to such challenges; this includes the development of assessment apps.
So how would an app like Language Explorer ‘save time’ for SLTs? Firstly, it records and transcribes what the child says electronically, saving valuable SLT transcription time. Secondly, it analyses this data and provides a useful, succinct report detailing key aspects of the child’s grammar and vocabulary. One might question that it is not only time that is saved here- but also SLT access, as surely they are not needed if the app has done their work for them?
SLTs are most definitely still needed. Yes- an assessment app may be quicker at recording and analysing language samples. This does not mean to say that a trained ear is not needed though; we all know that technology is not perfect. This is why in Language Explorer the SLT has the opportunity to appraise the language sample and make alterations based on subtle and nuanced observations that are only evident to the trained ear.
We must also remember that the SLT role in assessment is not simply deduced to the analysis of data; there is much more to it than that. It is what they do with this information, what it really means, that matters. Ultimately, it is about the human beings behind the data. What is the impact on the child’s participation in class? What difficulties are affecting their friendships? What does the child see as their main area of need? One of the most vital skills a SLT has is the ability to look at the bigger picture beyond the impairment; a computer simply cannot do this.
So, what can we do going forward? Let’s consider how technology can enhance the work SLTs do, rather than replace it. Imagine the impact of saving valuable time and how this time might be utilised; shorter waiting lists, increased intervention time, easier access to services. We can combine the relatively new benefits of technology with the unique and irreplaceable skills of the SLT to improve the quality of life for our children. After all, isn’t that really what it’s all about?