New aid for ther­a­pists

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

SO­CIAL me­dia is open­ing up a new line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion for people with speech­language dif­fi­cul­ties.

Pon­sonby speech ther­a­pist Niki Sher­riff says so­cial me­dia plat­forms such as Twit­ter and Face­book can pro­vide a voice to users who strug­gle to com­mu­ni­cate in­per­son.

Tech­nol­ogy which al­lows face-to-face com­mu­ni­ca­tion over the in­ter­net, such as Skype or FaceTime, is also mak­ing ther­apy more ac­ces­si­ble, she says.

‘‘I can see the po­ten­tial for Twit­ter and blogs to al­low young people who may have a stut­ter­ing dis­flu­ency to post their thoughts and feel­ings and their flu­ency isn’t the first thing that people are notic­ing about them.’’

Sher­riff works with clients rang­ing from preschool­ers to ado­les­cents and uses FaceTime for ther­apy ses­sions with clients who are un­able to meet in per­son.

‘‘I can see this work­ing for kids who stut­ter but also for other young people who have so­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion prob­lems like autism and Asperger’s,’’ Sher­riff says.

‘‘You can do a lot of work on how much eye-con­tact some­one is giv­ing you, stay­ing on topic and dis­cussing sce­nar­ios.’’

Sher­riff also makes use of apps de­signed to help people with speech-lan­guage dif­fi­cul­ties.

Par­nell speech ther­a­pist Roz Young says things have come a long way since she started in the field 40 years ago.

‘‘So­cial me­dia is great for people who stut­ter be­cause they don’t stut­ter in writ­ten com­mu­ni­ca­tion,’’ she says.

‘‘Along with tex­ting and email, it is eas­ier for people with com­mu­ni­ca­tion dis­or­ders to con­nect in those sort of ways.’’

She uses Skype for ther­apy ses­sions with adult clients who live out­side of Auck­land or who are un­able to get to the Stut­ter­ing Treat­ment and Re­search Trust (START).

‘‘There is re­search to show that ther­apy con­ducted via Skype can be just as good as face-to-face,’’ she says.

‘‘But I have reser­va­tions about that be­cause I think it’s harder to build a good re­la­tion­ship with some­one via Skype.’’

Young says poor in­ter­net con­nec­tions can also be a prob­lem.

‘‘It’s great to be able to see the per­son but not if there’s a time lapse, then it’s worse. It’s not my favourite means but I will cer­tainly do it for people who re­ally can’t travel.’’

Speech lan­guage pathol­o­gist Dr Caro­line Bowen says a large treat­ment study on people who have Parkin­son’s dis­ease and live in re­mote ar­eas is test­ing the ef­fec­tive­ness of ‘‘ther­apy in a suit­case’’.

‘‘Once they have been as­sessed by a speech and lan­guage ther­a­pist they can use a small and highly por­ta­ble com­puter for their voice and speech home­work which is then sent as a sound file to their ther­a­pist for eval­u­a­tion and feed­back.’’

People can feel iso­lated and de­spon­dent when they are un­able to com­mu­ni­cate with oth­ers, she says.

Photo: REUTERS

Talk talk: Tech­nol­ogy which al­lows face-to-face com­mu­ni­ca­tion over the in­ter­net, such as Skype or FaceTime, is also mak­ing speech ther­apy more ac­ces­si­ble. Above, so­cial me­dia plat­forms can help people with speech­language dif­fi­cul­ties com­mu­ni­cate with­out their dis­or­der get­ting in the way.

Al­ter­na­tive voice:

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