Innovation and research in the world of language and speech therapy are happening apace. It is through speech and language that we are able to share ideas as well as our emotions. However, as many of us know, adults and children can suffer from all sorts of speech impairments. This prevents them from properly interacting with others and learning effectively.
To combat this, new technology has recently been developed to help children with speech-related conditions. Here are just three examples of what’s happening in the speech therapy arena.
1 – Use of Infrared Spectroscopy in Speech Therapy
One of the most innovative speech therapy techniques is being pioneered at Misericordia University’s Department of Speech-language and Pathology.
The project is the brainchild of Dr. Glen Tellis, the department chair and a board-certified specialist in stuttering. Dr. Tellis’ team has been using Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIR) technology to study as well as better understand stuttering and voice disorders in children and adults alike.
Explaining how the system works, Dr. Tellis outlined how they are using near infra-red spectroscopy to penetrate the skull with light thereby allowing the team to measure changes in hemoglobin concentration in the brain during certain tasks. The technology is not only ideal but also very practical for researching speech and language disorders.
The near infrared light used in this technique only penetrates about 2.5 centimeters in the brain tissue. Most of the brain’s speech and language functions are processed in this area. Not only is the method more non-invasive compared to traditional alternatives, but it also allows SLPs to monitor how a patient being diagnosed reacts to certain challenges in real time.
2 – Kaspar the Robot and Autistic Children
Kaspar is a robot being used to help children with autism improve their communication skills in Britain. He can sing, comb his hair, tickle his friends, and even play the tambourine.
Over the last 10 years, Kaspar has helped well over 170 kids suffering from autism improve their communication and social skills. The small child sized robot is the product of a multidisciplinary project bringing together teams from robotics, autism therapy, psychology and assistive technology at the University of Hertfordshire.
In the initial phase of the project, children interacted with Kaspar under supervision of researchers. However, the project has entered the pilot phase where the robot has been redesigned for wireless control using a computer.
The new version of the robot has also been made more personal as well as responsive. The team is now shipping this newer version of Kaspar direct to schools and homes.
3 – Talking Larry the Bird iPhone App
There are many speech therapy apps available for download on smartphones and other portable electronic devices. However, for an app to really be useful, it needs to do much more than speak on behalf of the kids finding it hard to verbally communicate.
It should also offer motivation for children to practice their language and speech skills. Talking Larry the Bird is a great choice in this respect, especially since it is available either for free or for a token download fee.
The bird’s silly voice and a number of cause and effect features (such as bopping the bird on the head to make him flip over his perch) all add to make it a fun, adaptable, and innovative piece of technology for helping kids with speech and language impairment.