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.
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
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."
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.
"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.
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.
used to have to be right on top of him, looking in his mouth," she says.
Now, "he can be much more independent."
for the full article in the Wall Street Journal.