Practical Access Podcast

S3 E9: Assistive Technology & Communication with Dr. Jennifer Kent-Walsh

October 28, 2020 Photo by Julie Molliver on Unsplash
Practical Access Podcast
S3 E9: Assistive Technology & Communication with Dr. Jennifer Kent-Walsh
Chapters
Practical Access Podcast
S3 E9: Assistive Technology & Communication with Dr. Jennifer Kent-Walsh
Oct 28, 2020
Photo by Julie Molliver on Unsplash

In today’s episode, Drs. Lisa Dieker and Rebecca Hines talk with Dr. Jennifer Kent-Walsh. Tune in as she gives a breakdown of how she is providing remote services and practical strategies for working with kids using communication devices. 

Show Notes Transcript

In today’s episode, Drs. Lisa Dieker and Rebecca Hines talk with Dr. Jennifer Kent-Walsh. Tune in as she gives a breakdown of how she is providing remote services and practical strategies for working with kids using communication devices. 

Lisa Dieker:

Welcome to practical access. I'm Lisa Dieker.

Rebecca Hines:

And I'm Rebecca Hines. And I can't wait to find out Lisa, who is this episode's featured guest.

Lisa Dieker:

Well, we are very privileged to have not just a colleague at the University of Central Florida, but also a friend of ours, Dr. Jennifer Kent-Walsh. And I'm going to let Dr. Walsh share just a little bit of her really rich background. But we're so excited to talk with you about lots of topics. And specifically now we're going to highlight a little bit in assistive technology. So

Jennifer Kent-Walsh:

Okay, well, thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here. So you asked me Lisa to share a little bit of my background. So I am both a teacher and a speech language pathologist by trade. So having spent lots of time in the classroom and in clinical settings. So my research focuses in the area of assistive technology and not surprising, I'm sure in the area of

Rebecca Hines:

Jennifer, we're so we're so glad to have you, Lisa, it's funny because every every time we introduce a guest, we say this is hey, this is our friend. Well, they actually really are. And we're lucky to get to work with people, like Dr. Kent-Walsh. So, Jennifer, you mentioned these these exciting times. And you mentioned also you know, we're we're we're a big university, we have labs,

Jennifer Kent-Walsh:

Sure, well, this is something when it comes to telehealth, our tele educational service delivery that we've been all thinking about for many years and sort of dabbling in. But of course, in this COVID age, we're really pushed into, okay, tomorrow, we start providing services in a remote format. So using zoom, for example, so that we're able to not just be providing telephone

Rebecca Hines:

I just had an opportunity yesterday to run some analysis of parent surveys, and a local agency that does provide those kind of services. And I was asking parents, you know, what's, what's going well, with this idea of telehealth and an online services, and several parents responded that, you know, bringing those services into the home actually helps them as parents understand

Jennifer Kent-Walsh:

Absolutely. And we've long been focused both in our service delivery at UCF, but also in our research on how can we support parents, teachers, parent educators, all professionals, and family members, etc, who are working with individuals who have complex communication needs. So that's research that we've been doing, but only in more recent years, have we been transferring that

Lisa Dieker:

you you talk, you know, gave such great things to think about from this remote delivery. And we'll assume that we won't be in this model forever. I know, we're very optimistic that this, you know, will give us a new way of thinking about technology. And I think one of the benefits we've seen is now every kid has technology in many of the educational arenas. We still know there's a gap

Jennifer Kent-Walsh:

right? Well, I don't think that there's any time that's too early to start asking those questions. So we've really seen when it comes to communication intervention, that the earlier the better. So sometimes, we we actually see where parents will ask a question maybe to a physician, and kind of get brushed off, don't worry about it, don't worry about it. And of course,

Lisa Dieker:

And I love that, you know, it's never too early. And I agree with that. I mean, I think if you can figure out problems early, and I bet something you've seen, so I'll ask and you're probably going to give me a good laugh here. I bet you probably have seen the devices, once they're given to kids might have some relationship to behavior. And I and I wonder kind of what you see,

Jennifer Kent-Walsh:

Sure. Well, of course, it can become very frustrating very quickly, particularly for a young child when they're trying to communicate something and they think they're being clear. And in many cases, and when their only outlet is to maybe tantrum or do something that is less desirable that they the family member, or the caregiver service providers not really looking for, but

Rebecca Hines:

So Jennifer, that's great information. And, you know, that idea of behavior is is a form of communication. But But what if I'm a parent or a teacher, and I'm thinking Oh, but if I put this, this alternative communication opportunity in front of my child and give them something, some, some something electronic to use to communicate with me, you know, I'm not encouraging them to use

Jennifer Kent-Walsh:

Right? Well, it's one of the most common myths that we encounter, certainly in our field and and in education, where we have those concerns either by family members or by teachers or service providers, that if we use some other form of communication, we introduce technology and whether that be high tech, obviously with lots of options with apps and devices, or even low tech

Rebecca Hines:

very, very naturally. And you use those that those key terms in the AT world of, you know, low tech, and in high tech, so from the practical side, for families, or teachers, what's what's an example of a low tech, device or tool? Sure,

Jennifer Kent-Walsh:

so even a communication board that has some words or phrases expressed in a picture format, so maybe it's line drawings, or maybe it's actual photographs, where a child can point to something to communicate that message. And it's not just wants and needs, of course, that is important, we need to know when a child needs something, or when they want something, but we also need

Lisa Dieker:

Yeah, and so I'm gonna go up, Becky, still my question. Just kidding. And I really I was gonna ask you a really simple question, what are some free, low cost no cost apps, that teachers or parents might want to consider downloading, I know you're not endorsing a product. But again, what is out there? That may be a couple of go twos that seem to be the ones that families bring into

Jennifer Kent-Walsh:

Well, that that is a very difficult question to answer, as you said, because there are so many unique needs and looking at what might you you start to use just to communicate very basic message, what we want to make sure is that we don't box kids in, they have to continue to develop a expressive, you know, their language skills as they're able to express what they want to say.

Lisa Dieker:

it is there at your center. Is there some kind of place to kind of see some of those sites or some of those tools? Is there somewhere I would start that I might click on or learn or something from assha or, you know, again, you're involved in so many great organizations, that might be a good beginning place to go find?

Jennifer Kent-Walsh:

Sure. So the American Speech Language Hearing Association definitely does have a comprehensive website that provides some resources and sort of links out to other sites that would be worthwhile and exploring. So that's just assha ash.org. And you can go to the family members section of the site there to get information. And then in the local centers, you know, in the various

Lisa Dieker:

So so my last question for you and then I'll turn it over to Becky to ask a couple of here. would be in all the work that you've been saying, What is it you wish teachers and speech and language teachers? Because you have that background would do together better in our field, as we go back into brick and mortar settings, what do you wish for kids with communication needs that you

Jennifer Kent-Walsh:

sure well not to be afraid of the integration of technology in the natural environment. So it's great to have, you know, speech and language services, for example. And we need to have those provided in some cases in more private contained settings, etc, so that the focus can be there. But the daily use of the communication in those settings that really make a difference for

Rebecca Hines:

and then circle kind of circling back to this idea of, you know, the low tech, the high tech, the, and basically, the expense of special equipment for kids. You know, as a, as a family member of someone who is considered a high need, child didn't, you know, my nephew, his whole life, people have wanted to be able to supplement his speech and to do other things, no, put things in his

Jennifer Kent-Walsh:

Well, I think that it's very unreasonable for us to expect particularly when it comes to communication that you put something in the hands of and you know, we work with adults, as well as children, we put something in their hands. And we expect that they magically know how to use it in a functional way. That that's just not the case, just like we don't expect, you know, young

Rebecca Hines:

I think that's a great point. And I think that, you know, we forget sometimes that not all, not all parents have the level of education to be able to take a device and suddenly read through a long, you know, description of how to use it. And I think maybe as a profession, we might be more mindful of, you know, figuring out how we can simplify instructions and give specific

Jennifer Kent-Walsh:

Well, I think that I'm setting up an opportunity for communication in a context that again, is meaningful so if there's some way to with hold something that the child wants, etc, if you're trying to test to see, okay, are they really trying to tell me something specific, be mindful of the options that are there and look at, you know, how can you drill down to what is it that

Lisa Dieker:

well, thank you so much, Dr. Kent-Walsh, and thanks for all your work you're doing for families and kids in the community. Your Center has really made a huge impact in Central Florida. So we thank you for joining us on practical access. You can please send us questions on our Facebook page at practical access or on our Twitter feed @accesspractical again. Thank you Dr. Kent-Walsh Thank