Ssstutterfly-app for speech therapy

  • Student project

Students from four different Hanze schools (Communication, Multimedia and Design - CMD, ICT, Speech Therapy and Communication) have participated in the development of the Ssstutterfly app. Ssstutterfly is an app with exercises in speech therapy. The app helps with the first phase of speech therapy for children up to 14 years. The form of therapy for which this app has been developed is aimed at ensuring that the client ultimately feels free to speak, even if the client’s stammer has not disappeared completely.

Practising digitally is easier and more fun

Bea van Meerveld is involved in the development of the app as project leader. She has a background in language and speech technology and worked on a speech therapy course. With her stammering son, she noticed that the exercises in speech therapy are often time-consuming and not always fun to do for children. "My son was given exercises to take home, but I didn't know when to find the time to practice this with him," Bea begins to say. "My son also preferred not to think about his annoying stammer, so he certainly did not just do the exercises. Fortunately, we were allowed to make recordings for the exercises in question that we could send directly to the therapist via whatsapp. The screen use made it a lot more fun for my son to make the exercises. That's how the idea of Ssstutterfly came about."

Within our research group, we focus on how we can use technology to make healthcare more efficient and effective. The app is a good example of this.

Digitale innovaties

Subsequently Bea came into contact with Hilbrand Oldenhuis, Professor of Digital Transformation at the Centre of Expertise in Entrepreneurship. Together with ICT teacher-researcher Harald Rietdijk and other researchers, they have guided the development of the speech therapy app from the start. Thanks to a KIEM subsidy from SIA, the Regional Body for practice-oriented research, the development of the app could be continued. Hilbrand has noticed that people with their own practice in paramedical care are eager for digital innovations. "In daily practice, there is little space and time to innovate and to actually spend time on innovations in a structured manner. I see it as an important mission of the Hanze University of Applied Sciences to support healthcare professionals with innovative projects. Within our research group, we focus on how we can use technology to make healthcare more efficient and effective. The app is a good example of this."

First phase of therapy

The digital application focuses mainly on the first phase of therapy, says Bea: "The goal of speech therapy is to learn how to talk freely without worrying about stammering. That is a difficult distinction to make because you want to work hard to get rid of the stammering. That is an undesirable thought, however, because then you will fight against it. Therefore the first step in therapy is to introduce children to stammering."

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They learn things about their own speech or speech in general. The children also learn about different types of stammers (extensions, repetitions and blockages) through the app. Thanks to the app, users also know better what feelings are associated with stammering. So you do not work on the stammering itself, but on the entire preparatory phase. That's what the app does now." Ssstutterfly is aimed at young children up to the age of 14. Children can earn rewards by going through the different levels in the app.

Four programmes involved in development

A total of 25 students from four different study programmes were involved in the development of the app. Two students of the speech therapy programme made a substantive design which the students of the CMD and ICT programmes have converted into a visual and technical application. Communication students then provided a communication plan to market the app as well as possible. Hilbrand: "If you look at this product and what is needed, it is logical that you bring all these courses together. You notice that students also really appreciate the integral collaboration."


Input from professionals and tested by children

From the very start a group of speech therapists has been involved in the development of the app. They have been able to provide input at various times. These comments were taken into account in the final design. Children, including Bea's son, also helped test the app. "My son loved the app," says Bea. "We also had children watch who do not have a stammer. With the app, they can get acquainted with what stammering is in a playful way. We are now moving forward with an extensive testing phase with more therapists and users," concludes Bea.

Professor and researcher