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New study aims to help children communicate using mobile apps

Friday 8th June 2018
US researchers are initiating a new study that aims to investigate ways of using mobile apps to help children with speech disorders to communicate better.
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Scientists in the US are developing a new app-based approach that speech and language therapists could use to help children with severe communication problems.

Researchers at the University of Central Florida and the University of New Mexico have been awarded a grant to study how language therapy, combined with modern mobile technology, can help children communicate by using commercially available apps that verbalise words for the user.

A range of apps already exist that allow a user to select images in sequential order that represent the words they want to communicate, before verbalising that sentence. However, there have been little to no evidence-based training options available for children with severe speech impairments to learn how to use this kind of software as a means of communicating.

As such, the team will now look at how children with disorders such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or childhood apraxia of speech could benefit from this technology, as well as any other children whose communication needs are not currently being met.

The goal is to create a proven approach through which these youngsters could be provided with the necessary technology and instruction to communicate effectively, allowing them to participate in the same educational and social opportunities as their peers, and giving them the chance to enjoy a better quality of life.

Cathy Binger, a University of New Mexico associate professor in speech and hearing sciences, said: "When children can't use their speech to communicate effectively, they often get frustrated and they may act out or shut down. It can lead to all kinds of problems, like social issues and poor communication with family members.

"If these children are not provided with other ways to help them communicate, they also can end up with educational placements that may be inappropriate."

Written by Martin Lambert

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