Devices Assist Those Who Cannot Speak for Themselves

Moorpark Acorn, CA, USA
Friday, April 06, 2007

Extract: "Some SGDs have a builtin remote that controls the patient's home TVs and VCRs. Keyboards can display extra-large letters and icons for visually impaired patients, and the devices themselves come in various sizes to suit individual needs."

Most people view speech synthesizing software that reads written words aloud as a novelty that comes with certain computer programs. But for children and adults who cannot speak for themselves, this technology is a godsend.

Simi Valley Hospital has recently joined a growing number of healthcare facilities that are incorporating a specialized type of speaking computer known as a speechgenerating device, or SGD, into the therapy regimens of patients who have the mental ability to communicate but who cannot speak.

Autism, cerebral palsy, neurological diseases, stroke and a variety of other events and conditions can render a patient unable to speak. SGDs offer the potential of nearly unrestricted communication for such patients.

Small and lightweight, the devices can be carried anywhere. Their configuration allows for quick access to often-used words and phrases, and the option to type in less common words. Users can choose from a variety of natural sounding male and female voices, of both children and adults.

Buttons on the SGD can display words, pictures or a combination of the two, and adaptable software contains thousands of pages of preset menus that allow users to communicate on an almost unlimited range of topics.

"There are pages of words and phrases for beginning and ending conversations, for example, as well as expressing feelings," said Simi Valley Hospital speech-language pathologist Mimi Zetterbaum.

"Frequently used telephone numbers, as well as words and phrases the patient prefers to use, can be saved in a convenient location. Even entire menus from the patient's favorite restaurants can be programmed in," said Zetterbaum.

During therapy sessions, speech-language pathologists teach patients and family members to use the devices and help them adapt it to their specific wishes and needs.

"The two main things that frustrate the adult population is the inability to speak on the phone and the inability to speak directly with their family, friends and doctor," Zetterbaum said. "All of that information is programmed into their SGD, so they can speak for themselves."

Some SGDs have a builtin remote that controls the patient's home TVs and VCRs. Keyboards can display extra-large letters and icons for visually impaired patients, and the devices themselves come in various sizes to suit individual needs. Longlife, rechargeable batteries ensure that patients can use their devices all day and recharge them during the night.

"Studies have shown that only about 1 percent of people who could benefit from an SGD actually have one," said Zetterbaum.

Simi Valley Hospital speech language pathology staff started using SGDs on a limited basis in 2005. Currently, four patients at the hospital use an SGD.

For more information about the program, call Alicia Gonzalez at (818) 4096604 or pager (213) 319-1494.

Taken from http://www.moorparkacorn.com/news/2007/0406/Health_and_Wellness/044.html.

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