Speech and language therapy (SLT) can involve working with a wide range of people, all of whom have specific needs. Speech and language therapy jobs are usually centred on treating people with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, deafness, psychiatric disorders or dementia.
People of all ages may require SLT at some point in their lives, and the needs of babies, children and adults will obviously differ widely. Therapists must assess an individual’s needs before developing a bespoke treatment programme.
In recent years, technological advances have meant that the effectiveness of SLT treatments have been vastly improved. We are going to look at:
- robots and autism
- computers and stroke sufferers
- apps and practical applications
Advances in technology and speech and language therapy.
Speech and communication skills are the main way that humans create and develop relationships - we use them to share ideas and emotions with each other.
Yet it is the application of technological innovations, rather than just human interventions, that are really helping speech and language therapists to make ground-breaking developments in the treatments they offer.
Here are three examples of how technology is helping push the boundaries of SLT.
1. Robots and autism.
Developments in robotics are helping children with autism to communicate.
Kaspar the robot has been used to invite autistic children to play games like peek-a-boo with him. Researchers believe that Kaspar, who is child-sized and can be controlled by carers using a tablet, puts children with autism at ease simply because he is not complex.
His highly predictable and simplified interactions appeal to autistic children. He does not overwhelm them with complexity and he allows them to respond to him in their own time.
Kaspar gives them the space and the clarity to start interacting.
2. Computers and stroke sufferers.
Damage to speech can be a debilitating effect of a stroke. Treatment has traditionally been slow and intensive. This is all about to change.
A new computerised treatment allows patients to carry out their own treatment at home. It allows them to follow a staged programme that gradually rebuilds the essential connections that facilitate speech.
The programme is based on the controversial theory that speech output is not put together sound by sound, but that it depends on plans stored in our brains for whole words.
The results from its use are now leading to a complete rethink about exactly how speech works.
3. Apps and practical applications.
It is not just the development of technology that is making a real difference, however. It is also its accessibility and affordability.
Therapy Box is a business that develops apps to help those with communication difficulties. Like any other app it can sit on your smartphone and be used wherever you are.
Whilst the typical communication aid may cost anything from £5,000 to £12,000, the Therapy Box app is as affordable as it is portable.
Speech and language therapy jobs and technology.
It is no longer in the ivory tower of research that technology is making a very real difference to SLT.
In a therapist’s everyday job, and in the homes and lives of their patients, technology is helping to make treatments more accessible and more effective.
Speech and language therapy jobs in all fields are benefiting from the impact of new technology.