Finding Our Voice with New Speech Technology: Part 1

By: Jennifer Tripoli M.S., CCC-SLP

A few years ago, the Speech Language Department at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley had a vision to create a speech lab that would house cutting edge equipment related to articulation, voice and resonance disorders. A few therapists made a wish list of equipment that speech pathologists in an outpatient pediatric clinic could only dream of having. We knew this equipment would benefit our clients and hoped our vision would become a reality. Fortunately for us, our idea was chosen as one of the paddle raise items at the 2013 Easter Seals DuPage and Fox Valley Benefit Gala.

Due to the donations of several individuals, we were able to transform a therapy room into a beautiful speech lab and purchase three very high tech pieces of equipment. This room was given the name “The Voice Box” and we were ready to put our new equipment to use! A huge thank you to each and every one of you who were so generous in donating to this lab and to everyone who has supported the idea from the beginning!

Since openings the doors of the Voice Box, we have had many questions about the technology and how it could help a child.  In my next few blog posts, I am hoping to help you better understand the Voice Box and all of its possibilities!

The first piece of high tech equipment inside the Voice Box is the “Smart Palate” by Complete Speech. This device is used primarily for children with articulation disorders or children who have difficulty making specific sounds. Sometimes traditional articulation approaches are not enough for children to learn to produce a specific sound.

The system is designed to:

  • Use biofeedback to help a client see exactly what their tongue is doing inside their mouth
  • “It takes the guessing out of speech therapy by showing students exactly where their tongue is supposed to touch their palate to produce different speech sounds,” says Complete Speech.

Who can the Smart Palate help?

  • Children with Down Syndrome
  • Children with Dysarthria or Apraxia
  • Children with Articulation Disorders
  • Children with repaired Cleft Palates
  • Children with a hearing impairment

How does it work?

First, an acrylic mouth piece or palate is custom made for each client by Complete Speech (*fee involved for purchase of palate). The Client’s dentist or orthodontist makes impression of a client’s palate which is then sent to Complete Speech for palate construction.

Once completed, we receive the palate and connect to our computer software. It looks similar to a retainer with sensors.

palate collage
The smart palate connected to the computer via USB port.

Below are pictures of the Smart Palate in action.

palate1
The palate with sensors that show tongue to palate contact on computer screen.
palate2
The client’s tongue resting on their palate (sensors light up blue).
palate3
The “blue” sensors represent accurate tongue placement for sound /r/.
palate4
Only “blue” sensors are lit which indicate accurate production of sound /r/.
palate5
The “orange” sensors show inaccurate tongue placement for sound /r/.  This indicates activation of sensors outside of accurate /r/ tongue placement.
palate6
Side by side display of the clinician’s palate and client’s palate.

What are the Smart Palate requirements?

  • Client must have adequate attention to computer screen
  • Client must have cognitive ability to understand what they see on the computer screen is what they feel inside their mouth
  • Client must be able to tolerate acrylic retainer in mouth
  • Be at minimum 4 years or older

Click here to watch videos on the Complete Speech website.

To learn more about the Smart Palate please visit the Complete Speech Website here

Important note: Here at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley we are using the Smart Palate in therapy to augment our current, traditional articulation approaches. We are not solely using the Smart Palate to address speech sound disorders. The Smart Palate is not appropriate for every child who has a speech sound disorder. An evaluating Speech Pathologist who has experience in working with children with the Smart Palate will determine appropriateness for each individual client.

If interested in the Smart Palate, please contact our Villa Park intake coordinator at 630.282.2022 for questions or to schedule an appointment. For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit EasterSealsDFVR.org.

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