21 April 2024

New Speech-Therapy Tools Make Home Practice Easier

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Speech therapy for children is becoming a do-it-yourself project for parents, thanks to a host of new technology tools and medical devices.

According to one study, as many as one in four children struggles with a speech or sound disorder at some point during childhood. Not only do these issues cause anxiety among parents, they also weigh heavily on budget-strapped school systems.

Until recently, the standard treatment involved having a child sit in a therapist's office, sometimes with a few other children, drilling sounds on flashcards for 30 minutes a week. Progress was sometimes slow and not always certain.

Now, some companies have brought innovations to this notoriously sleepy and low-tech field in hopes of accelerating success for children and relieving school systems of some of the burden.

In some areas, "there have been huge caseloads and fewer clinicians available, says Joseph Donaher, the academic and research program director for the Center for Childhood Communication at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia."Technology may allow clinicians to reach more children who need services."

Using Biofeedback

The new tools are aimed mostly at children with easier-to-treat problems such as articulation, which can show up as a tendency to say "wabbit" instead of "rabbit," for example.

Articulate Technologies Inc. of San Francisco sells "Speech Buddies," a set of hand-held tools that children can use to determine where their tongues need to be to produce hard sounds such as "S," "L" and "R." The tools look like Popsicle sticks with a special tip on one end.

For the "r" sound, the tip is a wound-up coil that must be unrolled with the tongue in the same way that's needed to make the sound. Children can do this with the help of a parent (or therapist) and know that their tongue placement is correct, the company says. They can also chart their progress online.

Michelle Groen of Frankfort, Ill., says the tools have helped her 12-year-old son, who struggled for years to pronounce the "S" sound. "People would say, 'Put your tongue here, no put your tongue there,' and he was so frustrated," she recalls

She attributes a big part of her son's recent success to the fact that he can now practice the sounds at home, when he wants.

"I used to have to be right on top of him, looking in his mouth," she says. Now, "he can be much more independent."

Click here for the full article in the Wall Street Journal.

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