Reading devices help people with strokes, neurological disabilities

In the picture are Chrissy Akers (left), a graduate student in speech pathology, and Tina Puglisi-Creegan, a clinical instructor, who are helping Tom Calteux “relearn the reading process with the aid of a Kindle years after having a stroke.  Although he never lost his ability to write, the part of his brain that makes the connection between letters and comprehension was damaged.”

Harvey Black, writing for the Journal Sentinel, feels that “The Kindle and the iPad are in many ways the face of today’s communication technology” and that there’s “more to these devices than just making life a bit easier and more entertaining.”

Here’s the start of the article, using another photo of the Kindle 2:

‘ Clinicians at Marquette University are using them to help patients overcome neurological disabilities and strokes.

The devices “avoid the stigma of disability and bring individuals into the mainstream by using current technology.  It has a real uplifting psychological and emotional contribution to patients,” said Marquette University speech-language pathologist Tina Puglisi-Creegan.

For the past two years, Thomas Calteux has been using the Kindle to help him read, under Puglisi-Creegan’s guidance, at the university’s Speech and Hearing Clinic.

The lightweight, hand-held wireless device allows users not only to download books, but also to convert text to synthesized speech, change font size and control the rate at which the text is presented.

“It’s fun to use,” said Calteux, 61, a former photo editor at the Journal Sentinel.

“I sit and read. It’s so much easier than moving pages and stuff like that,” said Calteux, who had a stroke in 1998 that robbed him of his reading ability.

The Kindle’s text to speech function is helpful. Hearing the words can aid him in understanding passages if he has trouble grasping the meaning of words he sees.  The Kindle’s easily accessible dictionary is another aid, Calteux noted.

He has been in therapy since 1999 to help him regain his reading skills.

At the start of his rehabilitation, Calteux could not identify the letters of the alphabet or even sound out letters, Puglisi-Creegan said.

The years of rehabilitation after the stroke involved hours of work, using flash cards and worksheets. It was tiring and sometimes frustrating.

It’s like going back to school, Puglisi-Creegan explained.

“When he had trouble you could see tears develop,” she said.

After using the Kindle, which is owned by the clinic, Calteux says he wants to buy his own.  Other patients also use the device, said Puglisi-Creegan.

“It’s a joy to see how it has taken off. People want to be like everyone else,” she said.

A representative of Amazon.com, which sells the Kindle, said there are a number of anecdotes from stroke patients nationwide using Kindles to help them read. ‘

The article continues with how an iPad is used to provide a voice.  See the full article to read how that’s done.  About its effect, they point out:

‘ One goal of integrating the iPad into rehabilitation is to increase interaction with other people, said Courtney Miller, a student clinician working with Erin.

Using an iPad doesn’t “flag the user as a person with a disability,” Brueck said.

“A person with a vocal impairment could pull this out and no one would know that this was a device for communication,” she said. ‘

The article goes on to talk in detail about what works and why and also what doesn’t for some and cites the advantage of the two devices as less bulky and “easier to use than conventional speech augmentation devices,” the latter often overwhelming for clients, therapists and caregivers.

Then it mentions some drawbacks of non-‘dedicated’ rehabilitation devices (specifically the touch keyboard on the iPad as the example given) and that government funds can’t be used to buy expensive iPads, though they’re still “one-tenth the cost of conventional dedicated speech devices.”

Gregg Vanderheiden, director of the Trace Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which focuses on making computer technology accessible to the disabled, says that devices like the iPad can be a “powerful new base from which to build assistive technologies…”

He adds that when looking at these new general-use devices, “Putting wheels on a regular chair can’t simply substitute for a wheelchair and that “…there is danger that the availability of quick or less expensive solutions may prevent someone from finding a solution that really is effective.”

Via Andrys Basten’s A Kindle World blog


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