The iPad is an incredible tool. I use mine in my practice daily and I know that Laura does as well. We use them for jotting down notes, displaying visual aides, supporting learning in lessons, providing communication assistance, and we use apps that help our clients to address their therapeutic goals. Many of our clients use their own iPads extensively at home to work on fine motor skills, communication, emotional, and cognitive skills (among others!).

But at what point does the iPad end and the therapist begin?

In our clinic, we utilize several music making apps. Some off of the top of my head include my own extensive use of garage band, a music bubble popping app, a relaxing music app, a looper, air harp, singing fingers, and monkey drum. I also utilize apps targeted at therapeutic goals, like an emotion faces app and a board maker. All of my clients could have a degree of success in utilizing these apps either independently or with their caregiver, so why not just hand them an iPad and call that therapy?

The key is in the utilization. When I present an app in a music therapy session, it is for a very specific reason, I am looking for a very specific response, and when that response is achieved, the app (and often the iPad) go away.

The Music Bubbles App

The Music Bubbles App

For example, our client, James (name changed), has fine motor control difficulties. Their primary objective is, at the moment, movement of the index finger independent from the rest of the hand. I use the music bubbles app to address this goal with this client.

James has a habit of using his entire hand to hit at or press things that he wants. This app will allow for him to use his full hand on the screen and will still play the song and reward him for the action. Independently, James gets his reward if he meets goal criteria or not.

In session, James’ therapist pairs the popping of the bubbles with hand over hand assistance (the therapist physically aiding in digit manipulation), rocking, and singing as bubbles are appropriately popped. James receives reinforcement for completing the task appropriately, and the amount of reward is also increased when the relationship with the therapist is taken into consideration. When James finishes a song, the iPad goes away and we might address the same goal using instruments, or another music therapy intervention.

There is also the education of the therapist to take into consideration. As a clinically trained music therapist, our therapist can respond is James begins to distress, can extend the activity appropriately if he is successful, and can modify the activity as needed in the moment.

I realize that this is the very tip of the iceberg in regards to technology usage in therapy and as a tool for children with special needs, and I plan on posting more on it soon. Until then, I would love to hear from you! In what ways do you use technology with you child, loved one, or clients? Where does the tech end and the people begin for you?