September 2023 Content Roundup

It’s time for another installment of Spoken’s monthly roundup! Each month, we bring you a collection of content from the topics you’re interested in so you can keep up with all the latest news and resources.

Aphasia Resources

UMD Researchers to Untangle Language Problems for Tongue-Tied Stroke Survivors

Researchers at the University of Maryland are using advanced brain imaging to delve into the neural processes behind agrammatic aphasia. Funded by a $3.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, the study challenges long-standing beliefs about the disorder. This new perspective on agrammatic aphasia could revolutionize our understanding of language production and offer avenues for improving the lives of those affected by the condition. You can learn more about the new research by reading this article published by the university.

Autism Advocacy

A Disturbing Number of TikTok Videos About Autism Include Claims That Are “Patently False,” Study Finds

Unfortunately, we need to share some unpleasant news this time: a recent study found that while autism-related content is extremely popular on TikTok, a significant majority of it is either inaccurate or features overgeneralizations that ignore that autism is a spectrum. 76% of the informational videos analyzed by the researchers contained claims that do not align with current scientific understanding. We’d like to remind our readers to be wary of any content they consume about autism and make sure it’s coming from a reliable source. We think it’s great that TikTok has become a platform with a thriving autistic community, but we’re saddened to hear that it also doubles as a massive source of misinformation.

Non-Verbal Teen to ‘Take On the World’ With a Symphony Written in His Head

Alright, now for a dose of positivity. We love this story because it demonstrates the impact of access to AAC, even when introduced later in life. Jacob Rock, an autistic teen from California, shocked his parents when he began using an AAC app to type full sentences at age 16. Prior to this, he had only ever communicated by vocalizing the same two words: “yes” and “eat.” Although he had always understood far more, he could never express it through writing due to his motor skills. Once he was introduced to AAC, all of that changed—he was suddenly able to convey his thoughts on all sorts of topics and even began expressing himself through poetry. Not long after, there was another revelation: Jacob revealed that he had conceived a 70-minute symphony about his life entirely in his head. He soon began working alongside family friend and composer Rob Laufer to translate the music in his mind into an actual score by offering up extremely detailed descriptions. The symphony is set to be performed in Glendale, California’s Alex Theatre on September 30.

Technology and Communication

Nearly 20 Years After a Stroke, a Paralyzed Woman Is Able To Speak Again—Simply by Thinking—Thanks to A.I.

A groundbreaking project has enabled a woman that’s been paralyzed for eighteen years to speak again through a digital avatar. A set of electrodes implanted in her brain captures signals, which are translated by an AI system into speech and facial expressions. Not only that, but the avatar is able to speak in her own voice, which was reconstructed using a wedding video. We’re excited to see where this project goes, and if it can be made more consumer-friendly. The story can be found on Fortune and the full research was published in Nature scientific journal.

Speech Spotlight

Autism’s Language Path: Beyond Traditional Joint Attention

A recent study is challenging conventional understanding about language acquisition in autistic individuals. While it’s commonly believed that helping autistic children focus on what others are looking at (known as “joint attention”) can improve their speaking skills, the study suggests that autistic children might have an easier time learning language through reading and writing. This revelation could be a game-changer for how we approach teaching language to autistic individuals. Check out this article on Neuroscience News to learn more about the research.

About Spoken

Spoken is an app that helps people with aphasia, nonverbal autism, and other speech and language disorders.