A study of voice-assisted technology shows promise for therapeutic use

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The findings, published in JMIR Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies report the professional experiences of UK speech and language therapists using voice-assisted technology (VAT) (eg Alexa, Siri) with their clients to identify potential applications and barriers to VAT adoption and thereby inform future directions of the research.

They reported using VAT with 10 different client groups, such as people with dysarthria (a motor speech disorder that causes problems with the quality and clarity of speech) and users of augmentative and alternative communication technologies.

Many report using the technology to improve their clients’ speech, facilitate speech practice at home, and improve articulation and volume.

Most therapists indicated that they would like to try VAT in the future, stating that it could have a positive impact on their clients’ speech, independence and confidence.

Dr Orla Duffy from the University of Ulster says “Speech and language therapy (SLT) is an allied health profession concerned with the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of a range of disorders of both communication and swallowing.”

Speech and language therapists support a wide range of people within pediatric and adult services and work in a wide range of settings.

Despite providing a core service within rehabilitation and long-term care – particularly in acquired or degenerative neurological conditions – SLT, like many other services, has been affected by funding cuts.

Research by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists shows that over 80% of services in the NHS are facing reduced staffing, a narrowing of the range of services and, for 8% of services, the abolition of services altogether.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is a term used to describe various methods of assisted communication, including non-verbal strategies such as gestures or body language, the use of picture books or diagrams for communication, or a range of different technologies that can act as a replacement aid for voice communication.

Monash University’s Dr Roisin McNaney says “although AAC is a well-established area with clinically proven benefits, we and other researchers are also exploring other areas of technological innovation in SLT, particularly those that take advantage of low-cost, off-the-shelf consumer technology.”

Research teams from Monash University and Ulster University concluded that VAT was used by a number of UK-based SaLTs in clinical practice.

Pranav Kulkarni, Ph.D. candidate at Monash University, says that “wider adoption of the technology is limited by a lack of professional opportunities, training and understanding. Although other studies have examined the interaction between technology and several client groups, this study presents opportunities and challenges from a practitioner perspective.”

Data show increased engagement and empowerment, and the ability to achieve therapeutic outcomes for clients with communication disabilities.

The varied responses suggest that the field is ripe for the development of research investigating the role of VAT in evidence-based clinical practice, starting with a clear definition of its potential and benefits and the development of plans to measure outcomes when using devices for VAT to goals of maintenance therapy.


Gestures can improve understanding in language disorders


More info:
Pranav Kulkarni et al, Speech and Language Practitioners’ Experiences with Commercially Available Voice-Assisted Technology: A Web-Based Survey, JMIR Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies (2021). DOI: 10.2196/29249

Courtesy of JMIR Publications

Quote: Voice-assisted technology study shows promise for therapeutic use (2022, August 1) Retrieved August 1, 2022, from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-08-voice-assisted-technology-therapeutic.html

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