I was an early adopter of iPads for use in therapy.  It was such an exciting new time; and that was before the iPad had a camera.  There was a time when I used my iPad for most of my articulation and some of the language therapy for children from 4 years old onwards.  Clients were highly motivated (still are) by the iPad and would complete also most any task for a go at the end of the session.

I was reflecting last week how my iPad usage has changed.  It still comes out for my older children, and I love it for school visits (don’t have to carry as much), but in the clinic it can sit on the desk for the whole day and not be turned on.

So what changed, why is it no longer my go to resource?  I think the change came about when there was an increased battle to maintain my goals in the session.  Instead of the iPad being the resource or reinforcer, it was becoming the focus in my sessions, and not necessarily being used for what I had planned.  Increasingly I was having to battle to get the focus back on the goal.  I wanted to run a therapy session not a battle ground!

There are endless apps and ideas to use with iPads but there are definitely limitations to using the iPad with some populations in the clinic.  For the child who is obsessed with technology and blocks out all human interaction for control, the use of an iPad is not a great choice.  Similarly for the young child who needs to explore his environment and language through play.  So the iPad doesn’t come out for all clients but when it does there are a handful of tips and tricks that I use to keep things on track.

Guided Access – This is my all time favourite

Guided Access keeps the child in the app.  They can’t shut it down or move to another app.  It is sometimes called the “triple click” because once it’s set up, you open the app you want to select and then click the home button three times to keep the device on that app.
More information about guided access from Apple.

How to:

  • Go to Settings
  • Select General
  • Select Accessibility
  • Select Guided Access

Reduce the maximum volume

The volume for some apps is loud and while you can adjust the volume, I like to reduce the maximum volume rather than adjusting as we go.

How to:

  • Go to Settings
  • Select Music
  • Select Volume Limit

Enable restrictions to Installing and Deleting Apps

Ever had a student press the home button for too long and all the logos shake?  In no time an app has been deleted. Enable restrictions to stop accidental deletion or installing of apps.   Other restrictions can be set, such as access to the internet.

How to:

  • Go to Settings
  • Select General
  • Select Restrictions

Capture Screenshots

Screen shots are fabulous for making a record of work or for sending things home for practice.

How to:

  • Press the on/off button and the home button at the same time.  The screen shot is saved in pictures.

Set a Timer

For some clients I like to set the timer to structure the length of time on a task or sometimes a stopwatch can be useful.

How to:

  • Swipe up and bring up the menu from the bottom of the screen
  • Select the timer icon
  • Set the timer for the desired length and press Start


I use the camera for many things.  I love it so much that I bought my second iPad just to get the camera.

How to:

  • Make video recordings of speech for playback and review
  • Use the camera (without recording) like a mirror
  • Take photos of activities to send home
  • Couple an activity with a story telling app and you can insert photos of the activity and produce a narrative

Pictures for sentence construction

For some students I like to couple the iPad with another task.  The iPad motivates and the goals are met.  An example of how I use this is outlined in my Picture for Sentence Construction resource.  These resources were created when I was looking for a way to use apps effectively in therapy.  Using the great apps by Toca Boca I created a system similar to the ones used in the picture exchange communication system.  The client taps out his request before acting it out on the game.  My goal of requesting or sentence construction is met and then the iPad is the reinforcer.


Don’t get me wrong.  I am still in love with my iPad and own an impressive array of apps, but I work hard to keep the balance right in my sessions and the focus on the therapy goals.  The iPad fits well in my therapy tool box with my other favourites and my new obsession – mini worlds!! Will blog about that soon.