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An Evaluation of New Software to Assist Dysarthric Speakers with Independent Rate Reducation Practice
C. H. Dobinson, B. L. Petheram, N. Miller

The aim of this study was to evaluate new software designed to assist dysarthric speakers to practice speaking rate (SR) reduction exercises at home without supervision. Traditional home practice is often repetitive using limited materials and is undertaken without feedback on performance. New software harnessed the potential of computers to provide variety, feedback and access to self-monitoring while incorporating motor learning principles. An evaluation of the programme was conducted by addressing two main questions: 1) is there evidence that practice with the programme is “potentially active”? 2) how do people with dysarthria feel about using the programme as a home practice tool? Both quantitative and qualitative methodologies were used to answer these questions. Seven of the eight participants reduced SR significantly directly following a four-week practice period, four retaining a significantly reduced rate one month later. Four subjects also had raised intelligibility scores of 5% or more. The qualitative data taken from semi-structured interviews strongly suggested that this method of delivery of practice was preferred over more traditional ones. An example of the software is given. The results are presented and discussed in the light of the original questions that guided the study.

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