Many people struggle to speak. It’s not just that they can’t find the right word, or that they use the wrong tense of a verb. They can’t speak – at all. After a stroke or brain injury, a person might have aphasia or acquired apraxia of speech (AOS), or both, that limits their communication. Children may have developmental apraxia of speech (CAS) or autism that make it extremely difficult to express themselves.
Whatever the diagnosis, the resulting communication impairment is devastating. Simply saying “I love you” to a family member is nearly impossible. Thoughts are trapped in the brain, feelings are expressed only through smiles and tears, and everyone becomes frustrated.
Fortunately, speech therapy can help. There are many established techniques that SLPs (speech-language pathologists) employ to help children and adults with limited speech to communicate better. Through a combination of approaches, people who could barely utter a sound can often begin counting, singing, or saying familiar phrases when working with the SLP.
While it might look like magic, it’s actually a very intentional set of therapeutic techniques that take advantage of the brain’s wiring. Motor activation through hand tapping, speaking in unison, reading aloud, and watching another person’s mouth – all repeated several times – combine to help even those with severe impairments start to produce fluent speech.
Apraxia Therapy in an App
Now, all these therapy techniques have been combined into an affordable new app for use in the clinic and at home. Apraxia Therapy offers the chance the practice 110 conversational phrases, five common sequences, and 60 multi-syllabic words independently.
The Apraxia Therapy app takes users through six steps in a hierarchy of repetitions, moving from the most support to the least, encouraging independence along the way. After the fifth time through, the app automatically records the user’s speech and plays it back. This immediate feedback lets the person judge his or her own speech, building the essential ability to self-monitor.
Each individual word can be practiced on its own at any time, a feature users and therapist love. This app is so easy to control to get just what you want – all the steps are available at all times, the rate is adjustable, and videos can be paused with ease. You’ll appreciate the responsive interface and clear navigation.
The Apraxia Therapy app uses VAST video technology from SpeakinMotion to demonstrate the correct mouth movements. When a person with non-fluent aphasia or apraxia watches this video model and speaks in unison, they are able to mimic what they see, speaking fluently – an effect called speech entrainment. This type of practice is not only an effective treatment, it has also been shown to generalize to untrained speech.
Watch this fascinating TED Talk by Dr. Julius Fridriksson about the power of speech entrainment with non-fluent aphasia.
Apraxia Therapy encourages the user to tap the screen, or tap along on a table or leg, to prime the motor cortex of the brain. This tapping technique is part of Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT), as are focusing on rhythm and choral production, all of which are incorporated in this app. The Apraxia Therapy app prompts users to read aloud and in unison, a technique used in Oral Reading for Language in Aphasia (ORLA), a treatment shown to be helpful for similar communication impairments.
The Apraxia Therapy app incorporates several elements of script training, a proven therapy for aphasia that can be delivered by a computer. It also uses steps from integral stimulation, a motor-learning approach for apraxia that has been demonstrated to be effective. Users of Apraxia Therapy get the benefit of all of these evidence-based techniques in one app, with the ability to customize the practice to use only what helps them best.
Results You Can Hear
The automatic recording and playback of the user’s speech means you can hear how well the therapy is working. All recordings can be saved through email to share with others. Users love hearing their own fluent speech, something they don’t often get to experience. This can build confidence and pride, motivating further practice and more attempts at speech.
Repeated practice is needed to change the brain. Repeating these functional phrases over and over again will help them to become automatic, letting them come out in conversation when they’re needed. Think how much more involved in the discussion a person can be when they can say “what’s new with you?” or “I feel the same way.”
We’ve tested this app with adults with aphasia and apraxia working with top speech-language pathologists to see what they think. The stroke survivors have been excited to use the Apraxia Therapy app and very pleased with their results. The SLPs have found it a useful tool in therapy and invaluable as a home exercise program. They appreciate how it is so customizable by activity, level, and settings. Apraxia Therapy has been called our “best app yet.”
Try Apraxia Therapy Lite for Free
Wondering if this app could work for you or your loved one? Just try it! There’s a free Lite version with one sequence, seven phrases, and four long words for you to try out. If you like what you see, the full version of the Apraxia Therapy app has 175 videos to practice.
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