What’s going to happen with our profession in the future? It’s something many of us think about. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be a 21% increase in the demand for our services (so at least we know that our jobs are secure). But what trends are happening in the outside world that will impact our profession? There are some things on our horizon that we should be aware of:
- Digital Downloads instead of Games – Two out of three educators have downloaded something from TeachersPayTeachers. Who can beat the convenience of downloading exactly what you need at exactly the time you need it? For speech paths, who are often working out of our cars as we work across different buildings and settings, we need materials to be one click away. Let’s face it, games are heavy and take up space. As much as I love Zingo, Memory, and Guess Who, I just can’t carry them from one place to another easily. And of course carrying bags and dragging wheels behind us takes a toll on our shoulders, elbows, and hands. Online digital printables make it easy to find materials to treat specific skills and the library of purchases is easily searchable. You can print it when you’re onsite instead of lugging it from here to there. PDFs are the hero that save therapy planning, at least for me!
- Increased Use of iPads – Do you know an SLP that doesn’t have an iPad? I don’t. There is a wealth of iPad apps that make assessment and treatment easier. Also cheapie iPad games that can be used as rewards and reinforcements at the of a session. Not to mention that iPads are light, portable, and easy to use. Even though there is an upfront investment in an iPad and the necessary apps, you own it for lifetime. I believe, more and more SLPs will be using iPads.
- 3D Printing – My local library just got a 3D printer, which makes me think they have reached the tipping point as mainstream. Before we know it, 3D printers are going to be doing more and more for us at work. From 3D printed hearing aids to 3D printed assistive devices – really the sky is the limit (I’m thinking 3D printed larynxes in speech rooms everywhere are next). 3D printing is here to stay and will only get more sophisticated and affordable.
- Increase in Teletherapy – Teletherapy is growing. It’s reaching students and communities that were understaffed or underserved, which is good for our clients and the profession on the whole. Filling chronic shortages is frankly good public relations. From my own perspective as a teletherapist’s point of view, working from home decreases my stress (no commute). I see more teletherapy companies and national opportunities in the field.
- Virtual Reality – Virtual reality is here and it will just get bigger. Even though I have my reservations about children using it and being in front of screens more than they already are, there is a huge opportunity for the field of speech. What if you wanted to get a refresher about dysphagia? Imagine entering a virtual reality and observe a swallow study firsthand! Virtual reality’s impact in our education (and continuing education) will be wide-reaching and meaningful to our practice and clients.
What do you think the future has in store for our profession? I hope that my thoughts have helped you reflect on where we will be heading as SLPs.