Speech therapy is the therapeutic treatment of speech difficulties and disorders. Speech and language therapy is a type of therapy that helps to prevent, diagnose and/or rehabilitate an individual's speech and language difficulties. Depending upon the type of speech difficulty or disorder encountered, technology may be employed during therapy sessions to aid in the rehabilitation of an individual's speech. These technologies may be augmentative (support verbal speech and language) or alternative (take the place of verbal speech and language) forms of communication.
Technological Communication Aids
A variety of technological communication aids work to both augment and replace verbal speech depending upon the needs of an individual. Communication software, voice amplifiers, switches, and mounting/holding devices can all be used as augmentative and/alternative means of communication. Word and/or symbol boards are another means of supporting or replacing verbal speech. These boards allow individuals to point to items or words that they wish to communicate. Some software, such as Boardmaker, allows individuals to add to their boards as desired. Electronic communication aids may also be employed to support or replace verbal speech, such as SuperVoca, an electronic display communication aid, The Liberator, an electronic communication aid which allows synthesised speech, and The TouchTalker, an electronic display communication aid which allows produces synthesised or digitised speech.
Computer Technology and Speech Therapy
Computer technology has become a relatively common fixture in modern speech and language therapy. Computer software such as Sights 'n Sounds and Aphasia Tutor (both by Bungalow Software), Speechviewer (IBM), TalkTime with Tucker (Laureate Learning Systems) and Visual Voice Tools (Edmark) all provide audiovisual practices for both children and adults who are mastering speech therapy exercises. Some software packages are also in development to help individuals engage in speech and language therapy as a means of distance communication, so that their activities can be performed from their own homes.
Technology at Home
Technology can also be employed at home to help individuals who attend speech and language therapy sessions. Some technology, such as computer software, television programmes or films that encourages talking, singing or counting, may not seem specifically oriented towards verbal speech and language development but they may help individuals become more verbal and focus on literacy and numeracy during the times when they are not in dedicated therapy sessions. Children in particular may enjoy speaking into a microphone to sing along to popular music and the delights of "playing" with a voice recorder may appeal to individuals of any age. If possible combining play and practice in this manner will likely help individuals become more comfortable with, not to mention develop, their verbal speech and language abilities.
Further Information on Technology and Speech Therapy
If augmentative and/or alternative communication is needed, a speech therapist will be involved in devising the best plan for the individual involved. It will be at this time that technology may be brought up as a possibility during an individual's speech and language therapy sessions. However, parents and individuals who explore these technologies on their own should not hesitate to discuss new technologies with a therapist. Speech therapists can be accessed by a referral from a GP, Health Visitor or privately. A variety of organisations dedicated to supporting individuals affected by speech difficulties and disorders will also likely be able to offer further information on technology and speech therapy. Afasic (www.afasic.org.uk), the British Stammering Association (www.stammering.org), Christopher Place, The Speech, Language and Hearing Centre (www.speech-lang.org.uk), Communication Therapy International (www.ctint.co.uk), Speakability (www.speakability.org.uk) and Talking Point (www.talkingpoint.org.uk) are a few such organisations in the United Kingdom.