June 23rd, 2014

Campaign impact: Giving back the voice

Anonymous gift for tech tools for aphasia patients

For those living with aphasia—the loss of language or communication skills usually caused by a head injury or stroke—practice is key to improvement. And the right kind of practice, on the right tool, can make all the difference.

Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College Professor Swathi Kiran’s research proves this: Thanks to grant funding, her lab developed the iPad platform Constant Therapy, to help individuals engaged in brain rehabilitation. BU Aphasia Resource Center participants use the platform in weekly classes, and those who own iPads can use it at home as well.

Kiran and her students remotely monitor usage of the software and interview participants on their progress. During the pilot program, they noticed a pattern: “Although all patients who used the platform improved, the amount of improvement we saw in overall language and cognitive scores was higher for those who had the additional benefit of working with the platform at home,” explained Kiran.

After seeing the impact of the take-home iPads firsthand, an anonymous donor associated with the center stepped forward with a $5,000 gift to provide more iPads to members of the Aphasia Resource Center community who could not afford to buy their own.

“The donor called and said, ‘These iPads seem to be really helping people—what can I do to help?’” remembered Elizabeth Hoover, clinical director of the aphasia center. “At the center, we don’t turn away anyone who can benefit, regardless of their ability to pay. So this gift is really helping participants who would not otherwise be able to purchase an iPad and use it to improve their language skills.”

Among the bigger benefits of the iPads is that they can replace the clunky, stigmatized voice boxes some people with aphasia have been using in order to communicate. And, say the researchers, unlike those clunky boxes, the iPads are “just plain cool.”

Post Your Comment