Australian Smartphone App Proloquo2Go Helps Give Children With Speech Difficulties a Voice

From: The Daily Telegraph May 14, 2013

Reece Midgeley, who is intellectually disabled and has speech difficulties, has had his life changed by a new iPad app called Proloquo2go.

CRIKEY! Who said iPhone apps were just for playing games and accessing Facebook?

Children battling with speech difficulties will now have a voice through a revolutionary new smartphone app that even speaks with an Australian accent.

The app, Proloquo2Go, is the first of its kind in the country – with no other text-to-speech app specifically catered for Australian children.

AssistiveWare founder and chief executive David Niemeijer said his app would help people of all ages suffering from autism, celebral palsy or other congenital conditions to communicate effectively.

“It’s very important to have a voice that reflects your own age, gender and nationality,” he said.

“These children already stick out because they are different and more so if they are using a voice that does not match the person.”

Close to 300,000 Australians need Augmentative or Alternative Communication (AAC), which ranges from low-tech paper-based solutions and sign-language to high-tech dedicated communication devices.

About 35,000 of those are children aged between three and 12 years and can’t rely on their natural speech to meet their daily communication needs.

Mr Niemeijer said the app not only bridged the communication gap, but also improved behavioural issues.

“Very often children who cannot speak are full of frustration – a bit like a baby can only cry when it is frustrated – and the only way they can communicate is by acting up,” he said.

“Some children learn sign language but the moment they step out of their familiar circle they don’t have a means to communicate. This app opens up a lot of doors for them.”

Ann Midgeley’s 11-year-old son Reece has had difficulties speaking since he was a young boy.

She said his level of independence and self-esteem had increased dramatically since using the app.

“Now he can read at school and he’s learning and keeping up with other children,” she said.

“But it’s the little things he can do now like going into McDonalds and ordering something on his own.”

Speech pathologist Jane Farrall said the technology was “life-changing”.

“If you’re in school and can’t ask a question, how do you learn? How do you say ‘I love you’ to mum? Communication so important for a child’s development,” she said.

“Now they can now ask questions, greet people, develop social closeness and relationships – all because of this app. It’s fabulous.”

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