The Children's Institute Blog

The Smart Palate Story - Better Speech & Hearing Month

Posted: May 18, 2017 by The Children's Institute

Benjamin Bigi puts the customized, acrylic mold inside his mouth and begins.

“Wrrrrrrrote,” the 11-year-old says. “Rrrrrrrun.”

“Did you hear that R? Rrrrrrrun?” replies speech-language therapist Darcy Leoni. “Before, it was ‘wwwwwwwon.’”

As he speaks, blue and yellow electronic dots flicker on a computer screen image of his mouth, indicating where he is placing his tongue. The mouthpiece is connected via the computer’s USB port and a series of wires that lead back to the mouthpiece. A sensor even records the words he is pronouncing, showing how the lighted dots line up with soundwaves.

Smart Palate, as the technology goes, is one of the latest tools in therapists’ articulation battle. It is being featured today as part of May’s Better Speech & Hearing Month.

“Benjamin has only one specific sound to work on and it’s R,” Darcy said. “The R seems to be the lagging thing and fundamental, tabletop methods of therapy have not worked with him.”

The idea behind Smart Palate is this: if therapists and patients can get pinpoint-specific read-outs on the placement of the tongue, they can be better informed on therapies to adjust it. Benjamin is one of several kids to undergo the treatment regimen since The Children’s Institute acquired it about a year ago. The technology is available at mutliple satellites.

And it’s been successful: Darcy said every child was able to achieve proper placement of the tongue correctly within three sessions.

“Biofeedback is such an area of growth,” Darcy said. “I feel like this is a tool, another tool to use if traditional, tabletop methods are not proving effective for kids.”

“The technology – it’s skyrocketing. It’s continuing to grow and advance all the time,” said Darcy, who has been a practicing SLT since 1995. “This type of biofeedback technology wasn’t even in existence when I started as a therapist.”

The technology is great because, for kids like Benjamin, “it gets frustrating because people will ask him to repeat himself,” said his mother, Donna.

“Good ol’ R – they kept telling us, ‘It’ll go away; he’ll get it.’ But it’s not going away,” she added.

Though Benjamin is still new to Smart Palate – May 3 marked his third session with the equipment – it
looks like this just might be the key.

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