What does the future of speech therapy look like? The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for speech therapy services will increase 18% within the next decade. But aside from that impressive quantitative growth, what are some of the qualitative changes to expect to impact the world of speech therapy in the coming years?
1. Teletherapy on the March
Teletherapy has been growing for some time now. Ever since the landmark study conducted by The Mayo Clinic some 20 years ago, the acceptance and impact of teletherapy continues to expand, especially in those communities that are either underserved or understaffed. But aside from the benefits for the clients and the school administrators seeking to serve their students, the plethora of teletherapy benefits for the therapists are driving the growth as well.
2. The iPad Revolution
At this point, practically every SLP around has an iPad. This increased iPad use is more than just those in the profession keeping pace with the technology. It happens to be that there is a wealth of apps expressly designed for the iPad that facilitate many treatments. Aside from being portable and easy to use, there are inexpensive iPad games that can be used as rewards for the kids.
3. Once it was games, now its digital downloads
It has been estimated that well over half the educators out there have downloaded something from TeachersPayTeachers. Let’s face it, what could be more convenient than downloading precisely the material that is needed? In the increasingly mobile world that we live in, it is essential for materials to be no more than a click away. This convenience and availability promise to change the face of the entire profession for the indefinite future.
4. 3D Printing
Many local libraries already have a 3D printer. And it could be that this is evidence that the world of the printers is forever changed. In fact, as we know, the world of 3D is not limited to printing but is encroaching into other realms a well. Regarding speech therapy, the applications are limited only by the human imagination, as therapists will now be able to take their clients beyond the “page” and share practically real life duplications with their clients.
5. Virtual Reality
But perhaps the most radical changes to the speech therapy will be in the world of Virtual Reality driven by the accelerating developments in Artificial Intelligence. Although there is some debate within the speech community regarding the benefits to the profession, there is no question that it is only a matter of time before Virtual Reality is tweaked to bring children to places previously unimagined. Imagining dysphagia or a swallow study that can actually be experienced by children.
The Future is Now
While there are those among us that are skeptical of any change, and justifiably so, in the end as we all know, technology and advancement march on regardless of our feelings. So it would be prudent to be aware of the changes that are already in motion so that we can understand them, and be better prepared to extract from them the intended benefits.