Speak Up For Parkinson's
Biofeedback is an effective means of helping people to monitor and change their behaviors. Speak Up For Parkinson's is a free app for iPad that aims to help those with Parkinson's disease improve their speech. It provides biofeedback in the form of real-time volume monitoring and video review, and can also be used by those with other types of dysarthria, or even apraxia and aphasia.
Choose "Practice Your Speech" on the home screen to practice reading aloud or speaking. Select from two options: a randomized set of four phrases and sentences in "Words & Phrases", or use your own reading material or spontaneous speech in "Reading & Conversation". Both practice activities show a volume meter along the top of the app with a defined "Target Zone," along with a mirror image of the speaker. The goal is to speak loud enough to land in the Target Zone.
The app records you with the front-facing video camera as you speak. When you are done speaking, you can watch your entire session. This feature is useful for raising awareness of closed mouth posture, articulatory undershooting, and masked facial expressions. Clinicians can add value to the app by asking clients to rate their performance on target goals while they watch the video playback.
This is a free app that will surely help many adults with hypokinetic dysarthria and other speech impairments practice at home. As always, there is some room for improvement should there be funding for future updates. The app is only available for iPads using iOS7. Ideally it would be a universal app and work on older operating systems to reach as many users as possible. I have experienced several crashes while using the app, so users who are easily put off by technical glitches may not enjoy using it. While there are several phrases and sentences in the app to practice, each session brings up four random selections. I would prefer to select which phrases and sentences appear, or at least repeat the same ones I had used before. It would also be very useful to be able to adjust the target zone.
In addition to the speaking practice, the app offers a few useful speaking tips (maintain good posture, speak loudly, and breathe), information about the app's development, and info about the Northwest Parkinson's Foundation that funded the app. If you have an iPad running iOS7, download Speak Up For Parkinson's for free on the App Store.