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Learning to Speak Through Computers: June 22, 2011

Whether it’s due to autism or a physical impairment, there are many people who simply can’t speak. But that doesn’t mean they can’t learn to communicate.

When you think of speech therapy, what probably comes to mind is verbal skills.

“Articulation therapy, how you physically produce sounds, is one area in speech language therapy that I think is the best known,” says Valerie Rodriguez-Adhikari, a speech therapist with Lee Memorial Health System.

In reality speech therapy covers the whole spectrum of communication. An option for many who are non-verbal is to learn to converse using A-A-C or augmentative and alternative communication.

Take seven year old AJ Chamorro, who has cerebral palsy, limiting his ability to speak.

“Because of his diagnosis of cerebral palsy it impacts his gross motor, his fine motor, and very much impacts his oral motor skill so its very fine-tuned movements that we use to speak every day and we don’t realize - we just think it’s automatic to us,” says Rodriguez-Adhikari.

At Lee Memorial Health System’s Specialty Clinic in Naples, therapists are teaching him to communicate using a computer.

A-A-C can be as low tech as a picture board or as high tech as a speech-generating device.

Valerie’s plan is to get AJ his own system.

“We are hoping to get him a hi-tech device that would pretty much be like a little computer that he would use to be able to communicate sentences and narratives so that helps to work past the physical barrier that he has.”

Giving voice to people like AJ opens up new worlds of communication.