Excerpted from "Computers & Language Rehab," Stroke Connection Magazine, May/June 2005. (Science update August 2009)
As computer technology has become more efficient and less costly, an increasing variety of hardware and software options are available that can help people recovering from stroke.
Computer-Based Treatment Systems
Computer-based treatment systems consist of a regular desktop or laptop computer equipped with specialized software programs. The software programs may be used by the stroke survivor independently or as an adjunct to weekly therapy sessions with a speech-language pathologist or other rehabilitation professional.
Research demonstrates that specific problems may be improved with computerized treatment approaches. For example:
- Computerized reading treatment has improved the language performance of survivors with aphasia on reading tasks that were not computer based.
- A symbol-based communication system, in combination with a daily training program, has improved natural language production in people with severe aphasia.
- People report benefits from “exercising” their brain and practicing skills daily with the nonjudgmental, immediate feedback a computer can provide.
To find out whether you might benefit from a computer-based treatment system, you need first to determine your goals. A speech-language pathologist can help you define goals and identify appropriate software tools. Programs are designed to help with:
- Auditory comprehension
- Reading comprehension
- Cognitive skills, such as attention, memory and problem solving
Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems
These systems help people with speech or language disorders function better in daily life. These systems may look like portable “talking boxes” or may consist of software that is used on a desktop or laptop computer. Augmentative and alternative communication systems can enhance the speech and writing of people with significant speech and language difficulties.
If you're interested in using computers to help you write and talk, a wide variety of alternative communication options exist:
- Voice-output devices in many shapes and sizes
- Word-prediction software that “guesses” what you are trying to type
- Programs that read the text on the screen out loud
Alternative communication systems may also be called “speech-generating devices” and are covered by Medicare and many other insurance providers. To obtain one, you must be evaluated by a speech-language pathologist, who will help you identify which system is appropriate for you.
Unlike communication systems, computer-based treatment systems are usually not covered by insurance. Many software companies have trial periods or demonstration pages that allow you to see software programs before you purchase them.
For lists of computer software options and resources for computer-based treatment systems, explore the following Web sites:
Information about augmentative and alternative communication technology may be found at: