A Multisensory Sound Lab for Voice and Speech Therapy Activities
Numerous hardware and software products are now available that provide auditory and visual interactive feedback for speech-language therapy applications. Often, however, they are limited in application to a single user. Thus, many useful software applications are best suited for individual therapy or self-drill instruction. Service delivery however, often involves small group or classroom instruction. Technology that can provide stimulating multisensory presentations that are instructional and motivational to groups of clients is now available and is the topic of this article.
The Multisensory Sound Lab developed by Oval Window Audio has proven to be particularly useful for group, as well as individual intervention. Originally developed for use by deaf children, the system is currently being used to provide information about sound for classes of normally hearing students as well as deaf and hard of hearing students of all ages in many educational and therapeutic settings. The Sound Lab is currently being field tested at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Our discussion will begin with a brief overview of the Sound Lab technology and continue with example applications for the speech-language pathologist.
A 1/3 octave spectrum analyzer called the Visualizer displays the harmonic content of sound on a color TV as vertical bars changing in location and height depending upon the characteristics of the signal. The LumaSound Light is a seven foot tall column made of translucent plastic containing three banks of color lights that respond to different frequency bands and intensities of sound.
Accessory equipment that is being used with the Sound Lab include a laser that displays the rhythmic patterns of sound as constantly changing abstract shapes projected on a wall or screen, an oscilloscope for displaying sound wave forms, a tone generator, electronic stethoscope, drum machine, tuning forks, electric guitars, games and induction loop assistive listening systems for hearing impaired Sound Lab users.
Application 1: Purposeful Vocalization Activities
Application 2: Articulation Activities
Application 3: Group or Individual Voice Activities for Children
Self-monitoring of vocal loudness can be a difficult challenge for children and may not generalize readily to group activities outside of the therapy session or classroom. When provided with visual and vibrotactile feedback, even young children can quickly identify when sounds are "too loud" or "just right". Over time, the clinician may reduce the variety and magnitude of feedback so that children can attend to auditory information alone when judging vocal loudness.
Once installed, the Sound Lab is durable and easy to use. An informal survey of our student clinicians and clinical faculty members revealed that 45 minutes were needed to become proficient in operating the equipment and accessory devices. In 12 months of use, we have not experienced any equipment failures. Our major complaint with the system has been the inability of the Visualizer to resolve and display acoustic information below 300 Hz. Considering the very low cost of this component ($300), this limitation is not serious. Fine discrimination and production activities may be addressed using other visual feedback systems.
Assembly of the vibrating floor is not difficult, but the floor is not easily moved once installed. A semi-permanent space should be allocated for the Sound Lab. The modular 4' x 4' interlocking floor panels allow for a great deal of flexibility in setting up the system in classrooms and therapy areas. With our 12' x 12' floor made up of nine panels, 15 children or 9 adults can be seated comfortable on the floor. In our clinic we do not provide clinical treatment or prevention education for groups larger than 15. Thus, the sound lab floor dimension has not been a limiting factor. Small, easily cleaned cloth chairs that sit directly on the floor are used to stabilize active children.
Our experience with the Multisensory Sound Lab has been positive. We frequently receive requests from other universities, audiologists, speech pathologists and public schools who wish to use the Sound Lab for a variety of activities. Activities have included teaching the science of sound, speech therapy, vocal hygiene, hearing conservation, music therapy and special educational topics related to deafness. Even the easily bored, therapy-weary client is enlivened by activities in the Sound Lab. With the MultiSensory Sound Lab, the creative clinician and classroom teacher will develop a wide range of activities that motivate a variety of clients.
The research and development of the Multisensory Sound Lab resulted from a Small Business Innovation Research contract with the U.S. Department of Education. Kimberly Fisher is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Disorders, University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City.
For more information on the Multisensory Sound Lab, click here. Please email the authors at firstname.lastname@example.org for detailed references on information cited in this article. Paula Hendricks, M.A., is Educational Director and Norman Lederman, M.S., is Director of Research & Development at Oval Window Audio, 33 Wildflower Court, Nederland, CO 80466, phone/fax/TDD: 303-447-3607.
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