Information

Wife of Stroke Affected Husband Develops App for Rehab Speech Activities

Date Posted: 25.08.2012

WHEN DR AVIVA Cohen’s husband, Steve, had a stroke at the age of 50, his speech and language processing capabilities were permanently damaged. Today he is one of 10,000 Irish people living with a speech and language deficit following a stroke.

Determined to help her husband regain as many language skills as possible, Cohen began researching self-help tools on the market. She quickly discovered that what was available was limited, expensive and primarily aimed at children with conditions such as autism. The only option was to develop her own.

Cohen, who has a background in communications, set up Neuro Hero in 2011 and together with COO Catherine Sweeney, CTO Dr Vinny Reynolds, and speech and language therapist, Rachel Moore, began developing a series of rehabilitative speech activities designed to run on an iPad (Android and PC versions of the products are in the pipeline).

The first of a planned suite of activities, Match It, will be launched in September and will be sold via the Apple App Store at under €3. Cohen plans to keep the cost down as she says families caring for someone with long term health problems are very often strapped for cash.

“One of the big problems of speech and language deficit is social isolation which often deeply affects the wider family as well. This doesn’t only apply to stroke. It’s a similar issue with acquired brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s for example. This is the first time that rehabilitation and teaching tools have been designed to address the social isolation that so often leads to depression within families living with communication difficulties,” Cohen says.

In addition to the rehabilitation activities, Neuro Hero is developing videos aimed at helping families of those coping with a speech or language deficit. “It’s often bewildering for them as well as they have to change how they relate to the affected person,” Cohen says. “The videos give practical coping advice. For example, how to ask questions simply and effectively to minimise frustration on both sides.”

Neuro Hero received €20,000 in micro seed funding last year from the National Digital Research Centre’s Launch Pad programme. That paid for basic development costs with Cohen, Sweeney and Reynolds all working for free. Just recently the company won mentoring and financial support worth €50,000 from the Arthur Guinness Fund and €35,000 from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.

“The market for our products is both international and potentially very big,” Cohen says. “In the UK there are some 300,000 people living with a stroke and in the US it is four million, a sizeable proportion of whom will have speech and language problems as a result.”

Source : Irish Times,  July 16th 2012


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