07/12/2012 07:37 GMT | Updated 05/02/2013 05:12 GMT

A New Exercise Programme for Your Speech and Swallowing After a Stroke, brain Injury or Surgery - There is an App for That!

A brand new speech exercise app so2speakapp for all the muscles of your mouth and face after stroke, brain injury or surgery and certain neurological conditions is now developed and in iTunes.

Many people who have a stroke, brain injury, facial surgery and neurological conditions are left with weak, uncoordinated facial muscles. These muscles include the cheeks, lips, tongue and soft palate and may affect both sides of the face or just one. This can have a devastating impact on the person's ability to communicate, eat or drink and can radically alter the individual's appearance. People can have slurred sounding speech when their face muscles are impaired that is difficult for people to understand. Many people experience discrimination, being accused of being drunk, stared at for looking different and spoken to as though they cannot understand.

Speech and language therapists give exercises to affected individuals to regain control of their mouth and face muscles and to strengthen these muscles using resistance work, just as you would work your limb muscles with a physiotherapist.

Exercises are usually given to people written out on a piece of paper and occasionally with line drawings of lips and tongues to give more explanation. As a practising clinician I wondered if there was a better way to deliver these exercises. In the 21st century is it ok to give out pieces of paper with difficult to follow instructions or should we embrace new technology to try to improve the quality of what we deliver? In fact many individuals we are working with now are tech savvy and have much higher expectations of what a health service should deliver and this will only increase with time. So what of these advances in technology? Huge resources are being poured into making technology user friendly, technology that understands the user's needs and technology that's intuitive. So surely we need to harness these developments for patients to provide them with better resources to aid their rehabilitation.

I assumed there would be 'an app for that' but there were no apps that existed to enable a speech and language therapist to set a specific programme for an individual with just their exercises.

So I set off on the long road to develop the so2speak app that therapists could use with patients to set them specific rehabilitation face exercises. But I also wanted to make a really good quality app, one that offered so much more than just a different format to paper. So the app uses videos so people know exactly what they are supposed to do for the different exercises, it also uses the video camera function so patients can watch themselves to improve their own awareness, they can also record themselves and send this to their therapist so they can monitor progress. The app monitors the views of the individual from start to finish so the outcome of the exercises can be monitored. So about a year on from the point at which I realised I needed to develop this app it is finally in iTunes!

Now I realise the biggest challenge is to tell people about it and for speech and language therapists to realise the benefit to patients of using technology to deliver a better quality of therapy intervention. It may be with the advent of the expert patient that they will be the ones to inform clinicians of what is out there and how they can improve delivery of therapy for the benefit of the patient. The time will come where we will not be able to justify giving patients pieces of paper to explain therapy, there is already an expectation from patients of all ages that we must deliver better provision of rehabilitation and one key way to provide this is through the use of technology. For more information please see the website or follow us on twitter @so2speakapp.