Giving children a voice: Intervention study uses iPads in therapy to help children learn language

March 31, 2017

A project designed to use iPads to help children who are deaf or hard of hearing improve their language skills was recently featured in a news report on local station WKRC Cincinnati 12. A research IT team in the Division of Biomedical Informatics supports the technology used in this important study.
 
Despite early identification and intervention, children who are deaf or hard of hearing are at risk for language delays and long-term language impairments. This study is testing the use of technology to help them improve their speech, language, and social performance. 
 
Jareen Meinzen-Derr, PhD is the lead investigator on the study, called the Technology Assisted Language Intervention (TALI) project. Based on promising pilot study results—such as those seen by Sedona, a patient featured in the news report—a larger randomized trial is now being launched. Read a a blog post by Sedona’s mother about the study.
 
A biomedical informatics team led by Andrew Rupert and Michal Kouril, PhD manages the iPads. Their group developed an application to monitor data usage, using custom tools to monitor how long the participants are actively using the language application on their iPad. The informatics team collects data from the devices and then presents it to the study staff for statistical analysis.
 
Children in the study receive an iPad installed with a language application called TouchChat with WordPower, an assistive technology known as augmentative and alternative communication. With the app, users can touch images on the screen to cause the device to announce words, phrases and message with a built-in voice synthesizer or by playing a recorded message.
 
The 24-week intervention includes an initial language evaluation and two six-week cycles of onsite speech therapy alternating with two six-week periods when the children use the devices to continue therapy at home. 
 
The iPad device is locked during the 24-week study so that only the TouchChat app is available. At the end of the 24 weeks, participants will receive a final language assessment. The iPad will then be unlocked and the families get to keep the iPad and Touchchat app.
 
Investigators are currently recruiting for a randomized controlled trial with the goal of enrolling 40 children between the ages of 5 and 12 who are deaf or hard of hearing (have hearing loss in both ears). To inquire about participating in the study, call 513-803-1901 or email dhh_research@cchmc.org