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Device helps overcome stuttering

AN Australian invention offers new hope for children trying to overcome stutters. Speechsync has been developed by researchers from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and claims to be a completely new method of therapy for what is a physical, not psychological, condition.

Stuttering is caused by disruption to speech muscles, which have high levels of tension before and during speech. Using biosensors placed on the face, and computer software, Speechsync detects this tension and displays it on a monitor. Professor Ashley Craig says this helps stutterers to understand the condition and control it.

In an eight-year study, an average success rate of 80 per cent has been recorded. The device can be used with children from seven years of age and could be of particular use o teenagers, as Professor Craig says some speech therapists are reluctant to work with adolescents. Speechsync is being used in several Sydney hospitals and can be ordered on the internet for about pound;1,400. A home unit is being developed that will cost less than pound;400.

Professor Craig has also been involved in developing the Mind Switch, a device that makes use of brainwave patterns found in most people. It allows electrical devices or appliances to be operated within one or two seconds through the conscious control of this brain signal. In trials more than 95 per cent of people could control lamps, fans and televisions without training, suggesting the switch should be a valuable aid to profoundly disabled users. Chris Johnston

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