The program was developed for non-fluent aphasia, but the rich support it provides for speech production may be helpful with conditions such as apraxia, children’s language disorders, even fluent aphasia. And the integration of text may allow it to play a role in reading programs.
People who are most likely to benefit from SentenceShaper:
- Individuals with fragmented, non-fluent speech are frequently able to record short sound clips and piece them together into much longer and more grammatical structures. Their productions on the system can also be much more fluent than their unaided speech, since they can remove all the hesitations, false starts, and errors created along the way.
- People with word-finding problems may create better speech with the program by using the built-in word-finding tools, and also by playing back words or phrases they have recorded, which can stimulate new words.
- People who make errors of word choice (or even those who produce paragrammatic speech) notice their errors more easily when they play them back; they can then fix the errors by recording new sound clips.
- People who have trouble speaking intelligibly (due to apraxia, etc.) may be able to produce much clearer speech on the system, since they can revise and evaluate their speech. They may also benefit from recording their utterances in small chunks…a long word can even be broken up into several smaller chunks. Also, the program allows them (or a helper) to add text “subtitles” to their recordings, to help others understand their speech.
- The program has also been used to improve reading skills. Users can record a spoken utterance, then transcribe it, using WordQ or another screen reader to play back their text.
Abilities that are NOT required for effective use of the program:
- Computer skills: While experience with a computer is useful, it is not necessary. Use of the program requires only single-clicking and dragging. A touch screen monitor (which is often built in to tablet and laptop computers) can be helpful for a person who has never used a mouse. However, people with hemiplegia have operated the mouse with their non-dominant hand in several of the research studies.
- Reading and writing: Most areas of the program do not require text skills. Vocabulary Cue Buttons and the WordFinder display text words, but clicking these words causes their pronunciation to be played aloud. The Caption Box allows users to or caregivers to enter text; third party programs such as WordQ can be used to play back this text and to suggest appropriate continuation words. Finally, much of the text in the program is accessible to screen readers, that is, to programs which can read text aloud. WordQ works especially well for this purpose, as it reads the text in the SentenceShaper screen, rather than copying it into a separate window. Any text in SentenceShaper that can be highlighted should be accessible to WordQ and other programs with text to speech capability.
Abilities that are probobly required for effective use of the program:
- Relatively good single word comprehension
- Ability to detect errors when listening to speech (this is easier than noticing errors in one’s own speech while talking)
- Absence of severe impairment to executive function
Note: Most studies to date have emphasized largely independent use, so if the individual has a helper, these requirements may not be as important.