Real-life APPlications for speech disorders
As we have continued to delve further into a century marked by progressive technology, devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops and the apps that come with them have become the driving force behind much of our entertainment, communication, and daily functioning. However, apps are not just useful for scrolling through Facebook and quieting loud children at the grocery store check-out line anymore. More and more empirically-driven apps have become available, targeting clinically-relevant, therapeutic goals for individuals with motor speech disorders. It is important to undergo a thorough assessment to decide which apps have the most potential to be effective for each individual. The apps range from simple to complex and aim to improve speech characteristics such as rate, loudness, and articulation. Here are some great apps that can be used in the clinic, at home, or even on the go.
iParkinsons (available for iOS): This app is designed specifically for people with hypokinetic dysarthria, which is most commonly associated with Parkinson’s disease. It is based on the notion that individuals with speech characteristics consistent with those of hypokinetic dysarthria can improved their intelligibility using altered auditory feedback (AAF). Users speak into a microphone and their speech output is electronically altered and routed through their headphones so that they perceive it differently from normal. The three types of AAF used are multi-talker babble noise to increase loudness, delayed auditory feedback to pace speech, and pitch-shifting frequency-altered auditory feedback to improve articulation. The app interface includes a visual display of vocal volume that includes feedback to let the user know when his or her loudness level is appropriate.
ReaDySpeech (in development): Be on the lookout for this new app, which is currently being developed by Claire Mitchell, an SLP from the University of Manchester. The app targets stroke rehabilitation patients, but the design will likely be applicable to a wide range of individuals with motor speech disorders. The main philosophy behind ReaDySpeech is personalization. Each user has an individualized program tailored specifically to his or her needs that is used to complete the digital exercises. The program responds directly to patient feedback about each task, sending the information to an online system that is accessible by the clinician, who can then adjust the level of difficulty accordingly.
AlphaTopics (available for iOS 7.0 or later): This AAC app is designed to help patients with impaired speech production. Whether a patient has a stroke, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, or a motor neuron disease, this application provides just the right amount of assistance to help patients get their point across. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple hint or context clue to help a listener understand. AlphaTopics helps patients express what they are trying to say through tactics such as touching the first few letters of a targeted word, starting the conversation with a topic to give the listener context, drawing a picture, and writing the word or idea out. This app includes three AAC communication boards: Letter Board, Topics Board, and White Board. These boards have proven to benefit speech of people with motor speech disorders, making these individuals more understandable. For patients with dysarthria, for example, an AAC assists in giving the listener context, slowing down speech, improving articulation, and raising the listener’s opinion of the speaker.
Apraxia Therapy (available for iOS): Apraxia Therapy is a perfect way to provide home practice speech therapy to individuals with aphasia, verbal apraxia, and autism. In order to assist patients in speaking more fluently, Apraxia Therapy provides audio, visual, tactile, and written supports. With this comprehensive app, patients can speak along with conversational phrases, automatic sequences, and multi-syllabic words. These options can be practiced in different speeds and difficulty levels. The best part is that speech is automatically recording to provide immediate auditory feedback for self- evaluation!
Conversation Paceboard (Available for iOS 7.0 or later): This app provides pacing therapy to individuals with imprecise articulation and a fast speaking rate as a result of dysarthria, stuttering, cluttering, and apraxia. In order to improve intelligibility in conversation, Conversation Paceboard provides an extra twist to the standard pace board. Additional visual supports and feedback allow individuals to gage the pace of their speech. The combination of the standard pace board and visual aid and feedback makes this a great pacing therapy option.
Aptus Speech & Language Therapy Ltd. (2015, August 12). Conversation paceboard – pacing therapy for dysarthria, stuttering, cluttering, and apraxia. Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id613335477
iParkinsons. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.mmsp.com.au/iparkinsons-app/
Knutsen, R. M. (2015, March 16). Technology for dysarthria: A new app is being trialed to address slurred speech following stroke. Retrieved fromhttp://speech-language-pathology-audiology.advanceweb.com/Features/Articles/Technology-for-Dysarthria.aspx
Tactus Therapy. (2015, February 18). 10 ways AAC can help improve slurred speech in dysarthria. Retrieved from http://tactustherapy.com/aac-slurred-speech-dysarthria/
Tactus Therapy. (2015). Let’s see why you need apraxia therapy. Retrieved from http://tactustherapy.com/app/apraxia/
Tactus Therapy Solutions Ltd. (2015, August 20). AlphaTopics: AAC letter & topic communication boards + whiteboard for dysarthria & aphasia. Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/app/alphatopics-aac-letter-topic/id963870901?mt=8
The University of Manchester. (2014, October 29). Speech and language therapist to trial new technology for stroke rehabilitation. Retrieved from http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/article/?id=13117