What Types of Patients Benefit from Telespeech?

by Ben Beckstrom on February 22, 2012

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Telespeech can benefit patients with a wide range of speech and language conditions, disorders, and disabilities. A huge number of studies conducted over many years have shown that testing and therapy that can be administered by a speech-language professional in face-to-face interaction can be as effectively handled with distance communication, especially given modern technology like tablet-style computers with touchscreens and targeted SLP programs. Speech and language problems can disrupt education and diminish the quality of a child’s life. Telespeech has proven particularly successful in the following areas:

  • Articulation and Phonological Processes. Speech sound disorders include problems with making sounds correctly and with processing sound patterns.
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is characterized by the inability to focus or pay attention combined with hyperactivity-impulsivity.
  • Autism spectrum disorders interfere with social skills and make normal communication difficult or impossible, depending on the severity of the condition. Symptoms can vary widely.
  • Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) makes forming words and sounds difficult due to an inability to send the signals from the brain to the necessary muscles.
  • Cleft palate is a birth defect usually corrected by surgery during early childhood. Children with a cleft palate need help learning to form sounds correctly.
  • Dysarthria affects the ability to move the muscles of the mouth, face, and respiratory system. Children with this disorder are often victims of a head injury, cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy.
  • Elective mutism is when a child refuses to speak in a specific setting, like a classroom, but can and does speak in other situations.
  • Orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMD) causes the tongue to thrust forward in an exaggerated when the patient attempts to speak or swallow, making it difficult to form certain sounds.
  • Stuttering is a common problem that causes disfluencies in the normal flow of speech. Stutterers might choose not to speak rather than risk embarrassment.

Telespeech therapy can address speech and sound formation with corrective therapy sessions and practice at home. The use of technology is helpful to engage children, even those with attention deficit problems and elective mutism, where the attraction of colorful interactive programs on a tablet computer, like an iPad, can help the child focus and offer an ability to participate in a less pressured setting than direct communication with other people. School can be intimidating for children with a condition that makes them different, and the use of iPads and other “cool” new technologies holds an irresistible fascination for nearly every kid that helps break down communication barriers and inspires the child to enthusiastically participate in his own therapy. Telespeech therapists who embrace new technologies will find a wide range of low-cost, engaging, and user-friendly programs that exist primarily to help their patients build communication, speech, and language skills.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jolene Gayle May 18, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Selective Mutism: how does this carryover?
Stuttering: how does this carryover:
Dysphagia: safety?
Pragmatics: how social is it really?
Articualtion tactile cues: how is this method performed virtually?
I can see Voco as a tool and a last resort in remote applications but really?

Josh Derrick June 26, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Hi, does this help out people with Developmental Disabilities, especially those with Down Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Leaukodystrophy (Krabbe Disease), and Muscular Dystrophy?

Ben Beckstrom June 29, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Jolene & Josh – excellent questions. There many ASHA studies about how to use telepractice with various impairments including the ones you names such as Stuttering, Dysphagia, and Articulation. You can find the studies at http://www.asha.org/SIG/18/

Eveliina I. August 9, 2012 at 5:00 am

Jolene: There are number of studies that confirm the efficacy and safety using telepractice with these client groups. There are at least 5 studies about stuttering telepractice and at least few about dysphagia and telepractice. With dysphagia, several instrumental measurements were being used. This confirms the security of the clients. As crazy as it might seem, telepractice actually has been proven to be useful tool with many client groups.

Josh: Autism and telepractice have been studied a lot. It seems that autistic persons often enjoy using technology as a part of rehabilitation and it’s effective. With Cerebral Palsy, there is at least one study from the field of teledentistry, where videoconferencing was utilized with adults who live with Cerebral Palsy. This study can be seen as a preliminary evidence that videoconferencing (telepractice) method can be well utilized with this client group as well.

Safety, ethicality and functionality in telepractice our client groups are the must important thing – but we should also keep our minds open and search for information (such as these studies), so we can develop this area without an unnecessary prejudices. Telepractice works with surprisingly many client groups! And yet, this is just my personal opinion but I’m basing them on scientific studies made on this area.

Nate Cornish August 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Eveliina- I completely agree with you. In fact, I just addressed a bunch of these questions on a new blog post for VocoVision: http://blog.vocovision.com/telespeech/how-to-use-speech-telepractice-with-various-impairments/

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