Last updated at 10:13 BST, Friday, 06 July 2012

New app for children who can't speak

Summary

5 July 2012

New technology promises to give thousands of children who cannot speak a voice. An app called Proloquo2Go allows 6-year-old Ruby Dunn to tap on symbols on a tablet computer - and then have a sentence read out in a child's voice. The software, which features the voices of two British children, is among a number of innovations now helping children with special needs.

Reporter:

Rory Cellan-Jones

Ruby using the speech application with her teacher

The application helps Ruby to communicate with people

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Report

Voice of tablet computer:
"Mary, Mary, quite contrary."

Six-year-old Ruby Dunn has autism and can't speak. But now a software application on an mp3 player and on a tablet computer is giving her a voice.

Voice of tablet computer:
"What grows in the garden?"
"The flowers. The flowers grow in the garden."

Pauline Hoygreen works with her to make sure she is integrated in to school life. In one-on-one sessions they communicate through the app:

Pauline Hoygreen, teacher:
"It's giving her her own voice and it's giving her a child's voice for her to be able to communicate to a teacher, her one-to-ones, the children in the class and the children around the rest of the school."

Ruby was born 14 weeks premature and very tiny, so life has been a bit of a struggle.

Voice of tablet computer:
"Can I have lasagne, broccoli, carrots?"

At lunchtime the app allows her to order her meal.

Voice of tablet computer:
"I want the wheels on the bus please."

And in the classroom, Ruby uses it and other technology to play a full part in lessons.

It's worth saying there are now plenty of apps, some of them free, available on all sorts of devices which are designed to help children with disabilities. The one we've been looking at is pretty expensive – it costs around £130 – but Ruby's family say it's made a huge difference to her life.

Ruby's father:
"There's a lot of frustration involved with autism and quite often Ruby's trying to pull you to show you something, you're not quite sure what it is she's looking at or what she's looking for or what she's asking for. But now she's got this tool, this brilliant tool, that's able to give her this voice, it's taken a lot of frustration out. We find it's calmed her down a lot."

With school over it's time to head home with the technology which has given Ruby and thousands like her a better connection to their world.

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Click to hear the vocabulary

Vocabulary

software application

piece of computer programming designed to help a user perform a task

giving her a voice

allowing her to communicate with other people

integrated

being involved

communicate

exchange information

premature

born before she was fully developed

a struggle

a challenge

technology

electronic or digital products

devices

gadgets or pieces of electronic equipment

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