Speech therapy can sometimes be a long process, and it can be hard to maintain a patient’s interest, particularly if that patient is a child who is shy or frustrated. There are many reasons a person may need speech therapy, such as strokes, autism, or stutters, to name a few. Fortunately, new advances in technology have opened up a lot of very effective and even fun ways to engage in speech therapy. Here, we look at some recent technology that will show you just how innovative the solutions can be.
While we may still be a good few years away from seeing robocop in our streets, it may not be much longer before we see Kaspar, the autism friendly robot, in our homes. Kaspar is designed to look like a real boy who speaks and has moving facial expressions, helping children with autism to learn all about various social skills. While Kaspar has so far only been used in supervised settings, his developers hope that he could soon be a take-home product.
The use of technology in speech therapy relies not only on better and faster software, but also on new theories. One relatively new theory proposed by researchers at Sheffield University is that stroke victims could regain lost speech through intense stimulation, using a combination of text, sounds, and images. The basic theory states that speech has to be relearned from the inside out, focussing on repairing damaged nerves by bombarding them with one word at a time. Patients will use a programme called Sword on their computer, which will show and say words like “House” or “Tree” alongside a picture. Users will later attempt to match words to pictures, before finally attempting to say the words themselves.
There is a wide variety of apps available these days to help people with all kinds of speech issues, so finding one that suits your needs is quite likely. While the specific requirements will vary depending on the patient, there are some that are widely applicable.
Talking Larry was one of the first apps that would record something you said, and play it back in a funny voice, coming from the mouth of a cartoon animal. This is a very effective way of engaging shy children who may be self-conscious, and there are plenty of ways to keep it entertaining, such as by singing into it, or using different vocal effects.
For children who have trouble with a particular sound, such as the letters S or Z, Articulation Station is a good choice. This will focus on the letter that the child struggles with, giving them words with that letter at different points in the word. When you decide the child is making progress, you can move on to sentences, and then stories, which will help to hold the child’s interest for longer.
Technology has given us a lot of different options and very specific ways to address individual issues. This can make speech therapy more fun and effective, but remember that technology is not a replacement for professional therapy, or parental supervision. While technology can be very beneficial, over-reliance on it can be counterproductive.