Submitted by: Talk To Me Technologies
Joe lost his ability to speak after being diagnosed with ALS. He now uses a camera attached to his speech-generating device to track his eye movements. Speech is produced when his eyes pause to ‘select’ what he wants to say.
Prior to losing the ability to speak, Joe and his speech-language pathologist connected with Talk To Me Technologies—a speech-generating device manufacturer and provider that works with adults and children with complex communication needs—to explore alternative augmentative communication options, such as the eyespeak communication system. While working with Joe and his care team to evaluate his speech skills and needs, Talk To Me Technologies recommended that Joe take advantage of message banking.
Message banking is the process of recording special and important words, phrases, and sounds in a person’s natural speech. The recordings are organized, categorized, and added to the vocabulary file of a speech-generating device so they can be accessed at any time in the future. When Joe uses his speech device to communicate, he can select those words to be spoken and outputted in his own natural voice.
Since Joe recorded messages and phrases for his speech-generating device, he continues to greet others and tell stories in his distinct, natural voice. Not only is it helpful for communication partners to hear Joe’s intonation and emotion in his speech, but it’s also important to Joe for maintaining his identity. Among Joe’s pre-recorded messages are “I love you”, “How was your day?”, introductory phrases, and information about his medical diagnosis and needs. When asked about the benefits of message banking and his speech device, Joe’s wife remarked: “It’s nice to hear his voice; it’s been a long time since we’ve heard it.”
When working with clients on message banking, Talk To Me Technologies recommends that clients request input from loved ones to create a list of “legacy messages” and expressions. These often include laughter, unique expressions, and favorite words or quotes. Once you’ve collected messages and phrases, you’ll want to try recording at the same time in the same location over a short span of time. This will create consistency throughout messages, which is especially beneficial later when combining several messages into a single conversation via your speech-generating device. If possible, use a head-mounted microphone for enhanced sound quality. Finally, record everyday words and messages in different tones and emotional expressions, such as “yes and “no”, names of people and places, and words with emotional value.
An additional option to message banking is voice banking, the process of creating your own synthesized voice through multiple recordings over time. While message banking is an exact recording of specific messages, voice banking creates an approximate replica of your voice to use for all vocabulary output. Voice banking does require more time and specialized equipment to record but remains a worthy option for many users.
Talk To Me Technologies supports your efforts with seamless integration of your banked messages and new synthesized voice. If you’ve invested the time and care in recording, they will invest the time to personalize and customize your Talk To Me Technologies’ speech-generating device—all of which support message banking—with your messages and voice. In addition, they’ll provide you with guidance and instructions on banking more messages within your new speech-generating device.
Accessing banked messages is an excellent method of enhanced expression for others with complex communication needs—crossing both adult and pediatric populations. In cases with a complete absence of speech, adopting a voice of a peer similar in age, a sibling, or a friend with a great voice are options to consider.
When facing a diagnosis that can lead to partial or complete loss of speech, it’s very difficult to think about a future without your voice or with speech that isn’t recognizable as your own. Fortunately, message and voice banking ensures you’ll always have a voice that’s distinctly your own. Contact Talk To Me Technologies for more information on message and voice banking.
In collaboration with San Diego Access to Independence, the Ability Tools Southern California will have an in-person training on Talk to Me Technologies on Tuesday, February 28th in San Diego, CA. Join us to learn about the variety of AAC products from Talk To Me Technologies! For registration details, please visit Ability Tools’ Training Registration Web Page at http://abilitytools.org/training/training-registration.php.