First Filipino-language speech therapy app for kids with cleft lip launched

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With an estimated 5,000 Filipino children born each year with cleft palate or cleft lip, there is always a pressing need for cleft rehabilitation in the Philippines. Treating the malformations, though, does not end with surgery. These children encounter numerous speech difficulties due to their condition, so speech therapy is a vital part of their treatment.

The app’s creator, Veronica Yu (inset), discussing the features of the app during the online launch

Unfortunately, the reduced clinic hours during the Covid-19 pandemic meant that thousands of Filipino children had limited access to therapy services in the last year.

To ensure that all Filipino children born with cleft lip and palate continue to learn, Smile Train Philippines, the country’s branch of the world’s largest cleft charity, launched the Smile Train Speech Language App. This app is the first speech therapy app to be completely in Filipino.

“Through the launch of the speech app, we are really hoping that while services are limited or access is limited, we were able to produce this tool that can really help patients and their families continue their learning even during the pandemic,” said Smile Train Southeast Asia director Kimmy Flaviano during the app’s launch on Tuesday, April 2.

“Every day, this is really what keeps us going: We strive to provide an opportunity for everyone born with a cleft to access these services,” Flaviano said.

The app consists of four modules meant to help children born with cleft lip improve the pronunciation of their high-pressure sounds (P and B, T and D, K and G).

In addition to developing their articulation, the app aims to improve the children’s language skills by including levels with sentence comprehension tasks and stories.

As the first speech language app to be fully in Filipino, Smile Train and its partners also ensured that the story levels in each module would impart distinctly Filipino values.

“We added Filipino values and culture para may tatak Pinoy talaga siya since this is the first ever Filipino speech app,” stated Veronica Yu, a speech pathologist and the lead content creator of the app.

The friendly graphics and storylines in the app are specifically targeted towards children from 3 to 12 years old, but children older than 12 can still benefit from its modules.

Its other features include an auditory feedback and recording button so the children can hear themselves and engaging drills that practice the children’s motor memory.

The app stands to have an impact beyond the pandemic by giving children and their families to access speech therapy online. It allows kids in rural regions to access the essential service without the cost and hassle of travel.

“With or without the pandemic, digitalization of health services is definitely important as it allows patients to access health services in a more cost-effective way,” said Jeo Paz, founder and CEO of Nifty Hero, the company that developed the app.

“This is precisely what the Smile Train speech app is trying to accomplish, providing hundreds of families with cleft access to speech therapy services at little to no cost at all, wherever they may be,” Paz said.

The Smile Train Speech Language App is currently available for download on the Google Play Store. It is already in review in the App Store and is expected to be released within the next few days.

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