Author: Garric Clémentine, Master in Cognitive Neurosciences
Vocalyx : Communication content adaptation to different cognitive profiles of application users
Vocalyx is an application that focuses on all possible communication barriers (brain, motor, and social). In order to meet and adapt to users' individual needs, it is necessary to improve upon the application's functions day in and day out. For this we rely heavily on the feedback from both the users and those around them as well as from health professionals (speech therapists, re-education specialists, occupational therapists, neuropsychologists, etc).
In particular, we collaborate with many speech therapists. Speech-language pathology is central to the construction and reconstruction of language in people with communication disorders. Most notably, we work with Christine Larroque, speech therapist specializing in neurology.
It was imperative to set up an ongoing workshop to improve Vocalyx in regards to the context of speech therapy. For this we recruited three motivated and curious speech and language pathology students-- Léa Croze, Hélène Chappot de la Chanonie and Laura Le Cam.
During six months of collaboration we were able to tackle these four major themes:
- Diagnosing and improving the handling of the application
- Developing the digital rehabilitation toolbox
- Evaluating the application within the context of autism
- Integrating rehabilitation exercises into the Vocalyx application
▸Getting started : Vocalyx & speech therapy
The digital tool remains relatively new in speech therapy. Some computer-based software has been developed, but few offer the ability to be used in office spaces or rehabilitation centers with the use of smartphone or tablets. However, today there is a growing demand by patients and those around them for the need of an adaptable and mobile communication aid.
The Vocalyx tool therefore needs to be complete in having the functions necessary to adapt to the greatest number of patients, while at the same time being intuitive, manoeuvrable, and easy to handle. The user must be able to easily convey the messages they would like to communicate, and those around them must have easy access to the modifications and customizations of the application. The Vocalyx team gave itself a guideline of keeping the application as ergonomically easy to use as possible in order to maintain its accessibility for its diverse range of users.
The first step for the workshop was thus a series of ergonomic tests conducted by the speech therapy students. We kept a record of their reactions, expectations, comments and the difficulties they encountered in their interactions with the application. Each point raised was discussed and clarified, and eventually integrated in to the application updates.
▸Developing a digital rehabilitation toolbox
Vocalyx is an application for facilitating the communication of the user and the people he/she spends time with. Pre-recorded messages are used to convey the desires, moods, and needs that users may have on a daily basis.
However, thanks to having access to various visual supports (pictograms, photos, texts) and sounds (synthetic voices or personal recordings), as well as access to the creation and personalization of keyboards-- the potential of Vocalyx also extends to the rehabilitation of it’s users.
There have been many joint sessions dedicated to evaluating the adaptability of the electronic tool in relation to the rehabilitation work of speech therapists. Questions were asked about which exercises, options, and formats should be used, and the conclusions of this work were submitted to the developers of Vocalyx for their integration into the application.
▸Evaluer application in the context of autism
Vocalyx was first developed around the context of aphasia with the primary objective of adapting the format of the application to different forms of language preservation (text, photo, pictogram, designation on images, messages classified by categories, or not classified by categories, etc...) The result is adaptable and customizable, and offers many resources for those who fall within the autistic spectrum.
The conclusions of our workshop around this subject is featured in another blog article, available here here
▸Integrating keyboards and exercises into the Vocalyx application
After exploring, commenting, rethinking and evaluating the application, speech language therapy students were confronted with a new creation. Not only were they able to start new communication keyboards directly in the application, but they were also able to access exercises specific to memory related problems of Alzheimer's disease.
The three basic exercises now available in the application are explained here here