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Language Technology

March 30, 2006

Autism, Down’s syndrome, and cerebral palsy make it hard to communicate through speech. But new technologies are helping kids with these conditions find their voices.


Helping disabled kids speak for themselves. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Kids with speech-impairing disabilities often fall behind in reading, writing, and even social skills later on. But most speech therapy technologies are skewed toward adults. That’s why Penn State University communications scientist Janice Light is leading an effort to retool them.

JANICE LIGHT (Penn State University):
Our goal is that we would put a computer system in front of a child as young as a year and that from the moment that they first see the computer system, that they would be able to interact with it and use it.

One strategy is to custom-tailor the computers to each child’s life. To hear the word "dog," for example, a child might touch a digital picture of his or her own pet, rather than a stock photo. The new systems have already helped many disabled children learn language at near-normal rates.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.