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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Marge, M.S. CCC-SLP

AI and Speech Therapy

The question of whether artificial intelligence also known as AI programs are beneficial is a hot topic right now. The focus of many news articles centers on the dangers of AI generally with a brief mention of its possible advantages. Can AI be used effectively in speech therapy? As a speech therapist, I always believe in keeping an open mind, and I have found several benefits to the use of artificial intelligence programs in planning and implementing speech therapy.

AI programs can be of great benefit when planning speech and language therapy especially when materials need to be created quickly. Speech and language therapy needs to be fluid and an exercise may come to mind which may be of benefit to the client. The use of a program such as ChatGPT allows me to create an exercise on the spot and try it out. For example, one of my clients was working on producing the vocalic “r”, and I noticed that he was having particular difficulty with words ending in “ers”. I opened ChatGPT and asked it to create a list of 25 two-syllable words ending in “ers”. It generated the list in seconds which I was able to use right away in therapy. At the end of the session, the child and his parents were provided with the list as speech therapy homework.

Speech-language pathologists can also use AI programs to create activities for language therapy. I explored the idea of using AI to have a child create a sentence that can be turned into a picture. In the Lindamood-Bell program “Visualizing and Verbalizing”, children are asked to picture words and sentences in their minds to enhance auditory and reading comprehension. I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great if a child could create a detailed sentence, picture it in her mind, and then have a program create the picture to see if it matches her idea?” This activity would help promote the use of specific language which can be difficult for children with word retrieval issues. I discovered that DALL-E2 is a program which can generate artwork. Using this program, I created an activity for clients to create a sentence using several parameters. They picture it in their minds and then we enter the sentence in DALL-E2 which creates four pictures to choose from. They can also choose the kind of artwork they want it to create such as a photograph, a drawing, a cartoon, graffiti, etc. The client is then asked to choose the picture that best matches the picture in his mind and explain why. If none of them are a great match, we adjust the language to be more specific. My clients have been highly motivated by this activity!

Here is an example of one of the pictures created based on a detailed sentence:

"A red, blue, white, and brown medium-sized bird is looking at its own reflection in the water: digital art."

These are just a couple of examples of how AI and speech therapy can work together. AI also has its drawbacks. It is often tempting for students to avoid putting in the effort required to write an effective essay. Older students have tried to use it to write essays but the programs do not create engaging written work which can sound quite equivocal. In addition, software can detect whether it suspects that the essay was written by an AI program which can work against the student’s grade. One student showed me how he used ChatGPT to find research articles for a research paper. Unfortunately, the articles it cited were created by the AI and did not actually exist!

At this time, the use of AI and speech therapy is in its early stages. When used responsibly, it can be a powerful tool that can assist the speech therapist in planning speech and language therapy and implementing effective and motivating activities. I am looking forward to sharing more ideas in future posts!

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