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Social media boon to those with speech-language difficulties

Social media boon to people with speech-language difficulties

Social media sites such as twitter and new technology that allows face-to-face communication over the web has been a major boon to people with communication difficulties, says visiting speech-language pathologist Dr Caroline Bowen.

Dr Bowen, an Honorary Associate in Linguistics at Australia’s Macquarie University and an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Health Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Matal in Durban, South Africa, is an avid twitter user and says communication technology is beginning to have a significant impact on speech-language therapy scholarship and service delivery.

“People who have communication difficulties for whatever reason might not be able to say something, but they can send a 140-character tweet easily and quickly. As well, things like Skype, Facetime and Google Hangout are allowing people to communicate face-to-face electronically and those tools just weren’t available in the past,” she says.

Dr Bowen is in New Zealand for a seminar organised by Speech Science, led by Professor Suzanne Purdy of the University of Auckland’s School of Psychology. The seminar discussed therapy approaches for children with speech sound disorders.

Dr Bowen says other electronic communications tools are allowing people who have speech or language difficulties but who live long distances from speech language services, to receive therapy in a suitcase.

“Currently there is a large treatment study on people who have Parkinson’s Disease who may live in very remote areas but who, once they have been assessed by a speech and language therapist, 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,” she says.

Dr Bowen is also involved in the International Communication Project 2014 which aims to highlight the importance of human communication and how communication disability can impact every aspect of a person’s life.

“This is a major initiative to raise awareness of how a person is affected by speech-language and communication difficulties and the isolation and despondency people feel when they are not able to communicate with others as they want to or as they once did. People can feel a real lack of hope.”

The Australian government has just initiated a Senate inquiry into speech-language services and what the future demand for those services might be.

“This is really good news for the speech-language sector, we have been asking for this for a long time and we hope that the work the inquiry does will give us much better data and a better idea of how adequate the services provided for people with communication and swallowing difficulties are,” she says.


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