Dean Sutherland, PhD
Dept of Communication disorders
University of Canterbury
Current research focuses on supporting adults with complex motor and speech difficulties to be able to have access to effective communication options. There are two aspects to this research. The first study includes testing a voice-banking protocol and voice donors and creating ‘Kiwi-accented’ voices that can be used on a variety of speech-generating communication systems for people who rely on these devices to communicate.
The second study is comparing the efficiency and user experience of 3 different access methods for spelling words using alternative communication systems. The 3 access methods are ‘eye gaze’, ‘eye tracking’ and computer-based spelling system controlled by a user’s ‘thoughts’ (this involves measurement of the well-documented P300 brainwave form).
Relationship to MND
Many people with motor neuron disease are likely to lose their ability to speak. They are candidates for using alternative and augmentative forms of communication. Accessing AAC systems with limited motor movement requires ‘alternative access’ methods (study 2). Once a speech-generating device is accessible, having access to a voice that enable users to retain a sense of identity is an important aspect of communication and well-being (study 1).
Both studies described above have potential for further flow-on research. For example, voice banking experiences of people with MND, AAC system use by people with MND.
Michelle Westley, Masters student, Department of Communication Disorders, University of Canterbury
Claire Elliott, Honours students, Department of Communication Disorders, University of Canterbury
Grace Eriksen, Honours students, Department of Communication Disorders, University of Canterbury
Dr Catherine Theys, Lecturer, Department of Communication Disorders, University of Canterbury
Dr Theys is overseeing the comparison of AAC access methods study which is being undertaken by Claire Elliott. Michelle Westley and Grace Eriksen are the students completing the ‘Kiwi-voices’ voice banking project.