INTRODUCTION TO THE SPEECH THERAPY TOOL SMARTMOUTH
Original speech therapy tool SmartMouth is a movable model of the oral cavity which allows children to show and test the positions and movements of the tongue needed mainly for the articulation of individual sounds. The playful appearance of the tool helps to stimulate children's interest and keep retain their attention. It brings a fun element to the whole exercise, contributing to the motivation and desire to train, which are important factors that increase the success rate of therapy.
Recently, in connection with quarantine measures caused by the risk of coronavirus infection, the use of "replacement speakers" of a speech therapy tool appears to be a very advantageous means of protection for speech therapists, who thus do not have to use their own speech organs to an increased extent and thus expose themselves to the risk of direct infection up close, or may use the tool in video therapies for greater clarity.
Initial idea, motivation, visualization and realization
Clinical speech therapy is a field that is constantly evolving, responding to the current needs of patients of all ages and to new knowledge in the field of impaired communication skills. The majority of the clientele consists of children who need to be interested in, motivated and as clearly and multisensorially as possible explained to, how the speech apparatus works.
During my many years of practice, I constantly came across the inadequacy of demonstrations of motor, isometric and articulatory skills with my own speakers. To understand and form an accurate idea of the correct position of the tongue relative to the teeth, upper floor and base of the oral cavity, I saw the need to create a movable model of the oral cavity that would not be an exact imitation of human speakers, in which case it would not be tempting and playful. It would also be difficult to assemble a jaw joint, which should fulfill its function in a light, medium-sized device with which children and even adults would like to work.
Another reason was the children's ignorance of their own speakers, they often do not know what they have in their mouths, what is going on in it, and they cannot orient themselves in it. The inspiration for me was also a plastic model of the jaw with teeth, as used by dentists and dental hygienists. It never happened to me during visits to the dental office, that a dentist or dental hygienist would show me anything on their own teeth. They always have a plastic model at their disposal, on which they can clearly explain, for example, future surgery or appropriate care for the patient's teeth.
This sophisticated way of working has convinced me that the creation of a movable model of the oral cavity for speech therapists should take the field to a higher level, expand and improve the possibilities of working with speech therapy patients and their family members and, last but not least, shorten the overal time spent in care of these patients, which has been confirmed in my practice in the short time I have been using SmartMouth.
The industrial design studio became a partner in the project in fine-tuning the tool design, prototyping and production preparation. The main testers are the children and their reactions to Smart Mouth.
The movable model of the oral cavity is useful as a speech therapy tool in acquaintance and awareness of the content of speech apparatus in youngest children, teaching and practice of oromotor exercises, correct pronunciation of individual sounds, swallowing practice, demonstration of the correct resting position of the tongue, demonstration of the correct tongue stimulations with patients of all ages. SmartMouth helps to understand the instructions of the speech therapist and especially with children to attract and maintain their attention, where the interpretation and demonstration is shown in a playful way. The movable model of the oral cavity works well with coordination of the dominant hand and the tongue, thereby improving the cooperation of both cerebral hemispheres.
The child will try the correct positioning or movement of the tongue with the help of his or her hand in the hollow tongue of the tool, where we can help him or her with the precise execution of the position or movement by guiding the tongue. Then the child gradually tries the same with his or her own tongue, while he or she has a constant possibility of multisensory comparison, both visual (there should always be a mirror available) and auditory, where the speech therapist explains to him or her exactly what is happening and what needs to be improved.
SmartMouth is intended for therapies in speech therapy facilities and medical facilities, where it is necessary to demonstrate the work of the orofacial system. Furthermore in any and all types of educational facilities such as kindergartens, primary and secondary schools and social centres for prevention and care. SmartMouth looks cheerful, is pleasant to the touch and provides a wide range of possibilities for a truly vivid and entertaining presentation of positions and shaping of the tongue in the oral cavity. The tool is very popular with children.
SmartMouth is made of foam material, automatic opening of the jaw is ensured by plastic flexible elements and the degree of opening is determined by an adjustable locking device in the form of a flexible fiber and anchor hooks. The outer hook (closer to the teeth) is designed to lock the closed position, suitable for storage. The inner hook is designed to lock the open position, suitable for exercise. The textile collar of the tongue is attached to the back of the model with velcro. The tongue is designed as a hollow, flexible and pliable textile sleeve, closed at the front, open at the back, into which the speech therapist or the patient (under the supervision of a speech therapist) inserts his or her hand like into a puppet.
Proportions: lenght – 23 cm, widht – 16 cm, height – 16 cm in storage position, 21 cm in exercise position.
SmartMouth is not a toy, but a speech therapy tool intended exclusively for use for its specific purpose by a speech therapist or other adult or in their presence. SmartMouth is protected by a utility model kept under no. PUV 2019-36736 and has a registered trademark of the European Union no. 018179465. It is a custom Czech product with a limited number of pieces and with manual assembly, the materials are sourced from the EU.