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Say it Outloud for speech therapy

The company’s apps can also be used by families at home to supplement the effect of therapy sessions.Credits: : Istock.com/bogdankosanovic

Tampere-based speech therapy clinic Outloud has developed a range of mobile apps in order to expand the number of people it can assist.

Speech therapist Ulla Sergejeff had been working with children in her Tampere clinic for several years before she had her Eureka moment. Why couldn’t she update the old tools therapists use and make the process more fun and engaging? By combining her therapy expertise with help from relatives fluent in coding, Outloud Apps was created.

“We believe that learning should be fun, and the key to continue speech exercises is motivation,” Sergejeff says. “Children play, and that’s what we need our apps to facilitate.”

Volume increases for therapy

Outloud was established in 2013 with the idea of making digital games for speech-impaired children. The Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation Tekes* and Sergejeff’s regional ELY Centre provided advice and support to get up and running, and since then they have released a total of nine mobile apps which encourage children to practice their speech.

“In May 2017 we will release Fasteroid, our most entertaining and hilarious voice-activity game yet,” Sergejeff continues. “In Fasteroid, a spaceship reacts to the user’s voice pitch and you can practice how high or low you can get with your voice.”

Outloud Timer 2 helps to measure time when it’s difficult for toddlers. Image: OUTLOUD APPS

The company targets its apps at people working in speech therapy, audiology and special education. Sergejeff points out that they can also be used by families at home to supplement the effect of therapy sessions.

Moreover, Outloud is targeting big international markets. The company has already showcased its expertise at the American Speech and Hearing Association Convention and plans to return to the States again for this year’s event.

“According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the number of speech therapists’ jobs is expected to grow 20 per cent a year,” Sergejeff says. “This is caused by the fact that 40 million Americans have communication disorders, and by the first grade around five per cent of children have noticeable speech disorders. In other words, the demand for speech therapy services is growing and providers need modern tools like ours.”

VR and therapy from a distance

According to Sergejeff, Outloud bases its products on extensive research and clinical use. The apps are also fine tuned to meet therapists’ needs during development, via extensive interaction with professions. The company also hones its software and healthcare expertise by working on subcontracted projects: one example is an app to help develop listening skills for adults with impaired hearing.

But while Outloud’s present offering has a lot of potential it has even bigger ideas on the drawing board.

“We hope that with our games therapists, teachers, parents and children will have even more joy and laughter than before,” says Sergejeff. “In the near future tele-therapy will be utilised heavily. In the not-so-distant future tele-therapy combined with VR tools will bring speech and language therapy to a whole new level.

“Outloud intends to be part of this future.”

“We believe that learning should be fun, and the key to continue speech exercises is motivation,” says Ulla Sergejeff (second from right). Image: OUTLOUD APPS

*Part of Business Finland since 2018

By: David J. Cord