A common speech therapy approach used by speech and language therapists in dysarthria treatment is speech pacing; teaching a slower rate of speech in order to improve speech clarity and intelligibility. Speech pacing is often practised when doing reading aloud tasks and in conversation.
Speech Pacing in Reading Aloud Tasks
My very first job as a speech and language therapist was in Kent, England. I worked on acute hospital wards and I also worked in an outpatient clinic. Many of the outpatients who I treated had dysarthria due to stroke, Parkinson's, Multiple Systems Atrophy, Motor Neurone Disease or other neurological conditions.
When working with people with dysarthria, I often worked on speech pacing . When doing speech pacing therapy in clinic, I used to mark syllables, words and punctuation marks in reading passages with pen marks or dashes. I would then move my pen along the text as they read aloud. The reason for doing this was to help prompt the person with dysarthria to slow their rate. This did use to help clients with dysarthria to slow their rate of speech during clinic sessions.
However, they didn't have a means of practising speech pacing at home independently. It also used to take me quite a while to mark all the syllables or punctuation marks in each reading passage!
I wondered if it would be possible to make a speech pacing app that would have visual cues that highlighted each syllable or word. As it turns out, it was possible to make a speech pacing app for dysarthria treatment that did exactly that. The Speech Pacesetter app was born....
Speech Pacing App: Speech Pacesetter
Speech Pacesetter highlights each syllable or word in a reading passage at an adjustable speed. The person with dysarthria reads along with the visual cue (each syllable or word is highlighted) which helps them to pace their speech correctly. A person with more severe dysarthria/more slurred speech would benefit from having each syllable or word highlighted at a slower rate. A person with a milder dysarthria would benefit from having each syllable or word more quickly.
Many people with dysarthria will skip ahead of the highlighted word, if they can see the text that comes next. That's why we added an additional optional feature that will hide the remainder of the text.
See Speech Pacesetter in action in this app demo video.
Personalised Speech Pacing Therapy
Speech Pacesetter comes with a variety of in-built reading passages, poems, children's poems, short stories and tongue twisters. You can even add your own reading passages and texts to make therapy more personalised and interesting for each person with dysarthria.
Speech Pacesetter is currently available for $14.99/£14.99 on iPhone/iPad and Android. It is also available at a discounted price as part of the Aptus Speech Pacing app bundle.