People often think sign language is exclusively used by the deaf and hard of hearing community. While they are certainly the majority of sign language users, speech therapy often utilizes sign language to help children and adults who are suffering from a range of conditions. Patients with apraxia show an increased eagerness to vocalize new words. Evidence indicates it does not slow down speech development, and may actually improve cognition. While the field of speech and language acknowledges sign language can support normal language development in children with speech delays, parents often need more convincing.
Sign Language Gloves
The sign language gloves were created by University of Washington undergraduate students Thomas Pryor and Navid Azodi. The team recently won the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for their invention. Initially, the duo developed the gloves to make it easier for individuals who exclusively use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with others who are not fluent in ASL. The gloves sense the movements of the wearers fingers and hand motions and communicate the data via Bluetooth to a computer that then analyzes them and the phrase or word that is identified is spoken through a speaker. Most of the devices that serve a similar function are too bulky or cumbersome to be used on a regular basis.
Assistive Communication Potential
Assistive communication devices are broken down into three categories, assistive listening devices (ALDs), augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, and alerting devices. The sign language gloves would be most effective as an AAC. Eventually patients with severe difficulties producing speech may be able to use these gloves instead of an external device such as a picture board or tablet. While commercial use is likely many years off, the potential is quite exciting.
It is also important to note; the developers believe the sign language gloves could be further modified to include medical technology that would help monitor stroke patients during their recover. They may also be altered to be used in virtual reality settings which opens up an even greater therapeutic potential in the future.
The first line of treatment is to help patients achieve verbal communication. However, not all patients will be able to do this even though they are able to process the words they hear and the words they want to speak with no difficulty. Having another AAC device will give them greater freedom in choosing how to converse with those around them.
Want to be a part in helping translate sign language or assisting in speech virtually? Check out our latest teletherapy opportunities here.