Woohoo, it’s National Aphasia Awareness Month! Speechie Apps is going to be celebrating and spreading awareness by reviewing an aphasia-related app each week this month. (Also…there will be a fun aphasia-related giveaway coming up in the next couple weeks!) To kick it off, I’m reviewing an app that was suggested to me by an SLP who works in an outpatient rehabilitation setting. Upon hearing the name “Remember the Milk” (RTM), I assumed this was a grocery-list type app. I am so glad I actually took the time to explore it!
What It Is: In a gist, a digitalized to-do list/planner by the company of the same name. There are apps available for Apple, Android, and Blackberry devices.
Price: Free! (There is also a $24.99 “pro” version that allows for more features.)
How It Works: This app corresponds with an online website of the same name. Basically, it allows you to make a to-do list and plan your tasks as thoroughly as you wish. To use the app, you need to sign up, which takes only a minute and requires your email address and name. (This can be done on the website or through the app itself.) I only use the app for tasks that need to be done, but it could easily be used for scheduling meetings and appointments and whatnot as well. Its features include adding, scheduling, and prioritizing tasks. For example, upon adding a task, you can specify what time it needs to be completed, what priority it is (high, medium, low, none), what list it belongs to (e.g. work vs. personal), if it should be repeated, and more. Many times, I quickly add in a “to-do” for the day I want to do it, then plan the exact details when I have a better idea of what needs to be done that day. I may or may not use all of the features for each task. (For example, I planned to write a review of RTM yesterday, but it didn’t really matter when I wrote it, so I didn’t enter in any more details about the task. As far as publishing the review, however, I specified that I wanted to do this by a certain time this morning and I made sure to note it as high priority on the app.) Once the task is completed, it can be marked as such and will be taken off your to-do list and placed in a separate list with the other completed tasks. If a task was not able to be completed, it’s easy to postpone it (e.g. until the next day).
Therapy Applications: Okay, so you know what the app is and how I use it personally. Now for how it could be used in therapy. First, it’s just a great tool for clinicians to have for their own planning and organizational purposes–it helps me remember things like sending in my end-of-month paperwork and finding a therapy activity to address such-and-such a goal. But just as importantly, it can help adults with acquired brain injuries with goals such as memory, organization, problem-solving/reasoning, and executive functioning. These cognitive tasks are all things with which people with aphasia often have comorbid difficulties. Difficulty in the area of cognition can exacerbate the difficulty in the area of language and vice versa. Because of this, reducing the cognitive load involved in daily tasks can have a positive affect on a person’s ability to communicate effectively. In other words, if a person with comorbid expressive language and memory difficulties has a clear to-do list to use throughout the day, he or she will have more cognitive energy to use for communication purposes. Initially, the app may need to be used with plenty of support from the SLP. Therapy may simply involve helping the individual determine tasks that need to be done throughout the day or week. Eventually, therapy could begin addressing the skill of prioritizing these tasks. Depending on the abilities and needs of the client, the individual may be able to add things independently as a memory aid. In these ways, the app can be used as a compensatory strategy (e.g. for memory purposes) as well as a skill-strengthening activity (e.g. for increasing planning and organizational skills).
Pros: 1. Price! I am in mild disbelief that the regular version of this app is still free. Personally, I haven’t had much of a need for the pro version, and I think most people will be fine using the regular one.
2. Similar to the Starbucks app, this is a “normal” app. It’s not something that will stand out or make the person feel needy and inadequate–it’s something that many of us use every day: a planner. This also makes it more natural and familiar for both the therapist and clients.
3. It still has most of the things I love about my paper planner: laying out an entire day/week in front of me, planning by what time I need each task done, crossing items off the list when I’ve finished (don’t you love that sense of accomplishment?), etc.
4. Simplicity. It’s only as complex as you make it. For example, if you don’t want the hassle of determining the priority of your task, just don’t use that feature. This is nice for clients that may become confused or frustrated by too many options.
5. Wide variety of features. I particularly love that I can postpone tasks. This isn’t something I can easily do on a paper planner without scribbling something out.
6. Addresses a variety of higher-level cognitive goals. There aren’t many apps out there that can truly focus on things such as executive functioning skills.
7. Easy editing. If you or a client needs to change something, it is simple and won’t be a hassle.
8. Reduced cognitive load. This applies for anyone who uses the app, regardless of whether or not they have a brain injury.
9. Convenience. Many clients and therapists always have their phone or tablet on them, so the app may actually be more effective than a paper planner.
10. There is a search feature. This can come in handy for people who cannot remember when they scheduled their next dentist appointment but know they put it in the app somewhere.
Cons: 1. The customization options are a little iffy in some parts. For example, I tried to set a task for “every weekday,” but it did not seem to recognize this instruction.
2. There are a couple features in the “pro” (read: paid) version that I wish I could use. For example, automatic syncing between devices only occurs if you have purchased the pro version. I’ve been able to adjust to this though by simply only using the planner on one device. It has not yetf been enough of a hassle to actually purchase the pro version.
The Take-Away: Awesome app for the perfect price! It works seamlessly, can be used for the benefit of the therapist AND clients, and addresses higher-level cognitive goals in a natural and familiar way.
My Questions for You: Do you use this app for your own personal use or for working on your clients’ objectives? What skills have you addressed using this app?