Talk Around IT. Apps to help speech and language difficulties

Talk Around IT. Apps to help speech and language difficulties: Home-based rehabilitation to help speech & language difficulties such as aphasia after stroke, brain injury and other conditions

Dublin, IrelandDublin
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Over 20 million people in the EU have speech and language difficulties such as Aphasia often after stroke, brain injury and other conditions. This includes word finding difficulties which impair communication resulting in social isolation. Our home-based rehabilitation software uses speech and language therapy enabling people to spend longer engaging in key exercises. Research shows that increasing this time is directly linked to improvement.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Speech & language impairments like Aphasia make it difficult to understand or say the correct word. This often leads to depression and disengagement with all forms of therapy, increased pressure on the family carer and social isolation for the individual and their family. Once the aphasic person leaves hospital there are very few rehabilitative supports unless they can afford private therapy which is prohibitively expensive for most people. As a consequence, there is a low recovery rate from conditions like Aphasia. This population often suffers additional health issues and the pressure on their family may lead to poor carer health. This can result in an inability to care for a loved one at home and necessitate expensive residential care.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We created a suite of apps based on Semantic Feature Analysis, an evidence based methodology used to treat word finding difficulties. These Talk Around IT apps present key exercises that Speech & Language therapists (SLTs) often use to improve word finding. Using our apps patients can practise at home for as many hours as they choose. Increasing time engaged in these exercises improves their chance of recovery. These apps can be used without support from a therapist. They also include tools to help family members learn how to ask semantically accurate questions. This improves the potential for rehabilitation and promotes interaction, thereby helping to address the social isolation. We intend to develop these apps in a number of languages.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Steve has aphasia after a stroke. Using our app he can: 1. Do key exercises for many hours every day at ¼ the cost of one private therapy session. 2. His quality of life has improved as he has learned new words. 3. He is less isolated as others use the app with him & he is more confidence in his speech. 4. His mood is better, as a result, he is engaging better with physiotherapy & occupational therapies. 5. It is easier to care for him at home, this reduces the chance of Steve moving to an institution. This leads to savings in health e.g. UK carers save the economy £119 billion pa. 6.The health of his family carer has improved since Steve's mood and independence is better.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We are currently researching which languages and cultures can best adopt our digital solution. We are analyzing the following variables in different languages and regions: access to technology, cultural attitudes to eHealth, number of Speech and Language centres willing to use apps in therapy and opportunities to collaborate with health care organizations is the initial research stage. We will then research design optimization and digital marketing strategies within the selected countries. We have begun by translating the app for the Spanish market, replacing ‘British’ vocabulary items with items more commonly found in Spain.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are a small number speech & language therapy (SLT) app providers. We have only found one directly comparable product for word finding difficulties. We differ from this, and others, in the following ways: 1.We are the first SLT app provider to address social isolation by providing opportunities for friends and family to learn key skills and interact with their loved one. 2.Our image quality and user friendly layout far exceeds our direct competitor and the majority of SLT apps. 3.We provide apps for iOS, OS X, Android and Windows so our apps can be used on almost any tablet, computer or kindle; this is very unusual. 4.Our apps represent better value for money than others in this sector. 5.We constantly respond to expert feedback to improve our apps 6.You do not need a therapist to use our apps effectively.


Dr Aviva Cohen is CEO and founder of Neuro Hero. She has worked to support those with disability since her husband’s stroke in 2006. Her work received awards from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland and Arthur Guinness Fund. Our Senior Speech and language therapist, Milind Sonawane has 15 years experience across health care settings in India, Asia Pacific and Ireland. Roisín Carroll: project manager; has expertise in digital project management and language acquisition and has worked in the Educational sector in Spain and Morocco. Our CTO, Ian Kennedy, is an award winning designer with 20 years experience in Games Design, Animation and video production. Gordon Murphy: consultant App developer is a third level lecturer in app development & multimedia developer since 1998. DSA are providing a team with a cross section of skills: Digital Marketing, Programmers, Researchers and Project Managers,
About the Lead Co-Creation Partners
Digital Skills Academy
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Type of organization (e.g. NGO, association, not-for-profit, foundation, social enterprise)

Social Enterprise

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Organization Name

Digital Skills Academy

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Primary European Country where this Project is creating social impact

, DB, Dublin

Additional European countries where this Project is creating social impact

United Kingdom

Select the category that best fits the type of your project:

New products & services: Entries in this category develop and offer essentials product and services that address needs currently unmet.

What awards or honors has the project received?

Arthur Guinness Fund (Award), Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (Award), Enterprise Ireland (Identifed as high potential startup).

Project Summary
Co-Creation Model: Tell us about your main strategic partners and how the partnership truly create value. For each Partner please include its type (business/social/public), its name, a short description, its key motivation to participate in the co-creation project, and the key contributions it is making in the co-creation project. Please follow the format displayed below:

-Partner 1
Digital Skills Academy is a private company in the Education sector.

Digital Skills Academy delivers innovative learning programs in digital skills at degree and post grad level.

Their post- graduate program includes a digital project with Industry Partners. This typically focuses on scalable models and innovative digital solutions. They also require that these projects reflect the taught modules and are commercially viable.

Their contribution includes market research into the European localization of our apps. They are working on: gathering statistics on Aphasia, providing access to technology, amassing regional knowledge of eHealth, compiling competitor analysis and financial analysis.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact. Please specify using qualitative and quantitative data (e.g. # of indirect and direct beneficiaries); help us understand how this solution truly makes a difference.

More than 1000 people are using the free version of our Talk Around IT app. Over 50 health professionals are using full versions of the apps with their patients; they are providing feedback and case studies. We are using their feedback to build in-app data gathering systems that therapists would traditionally do on paper. We are also updating the apps in line with their recommendations including: a test for the user’s vocabulary retention, analytics that can be sent to a therapist and additional vocabulary. Our users report increased vocabulary, improved naming accuracy, enhanced mood and better social interactions. Our apps give people more control over their own recovery. Our next step is to introduce these apps in additional languages allowing us to help more people.

Funding: How is your project financial supported? [select all that apply]

Foundations, NGOs, Customers, Other.

Sustainability Plan: Has your project already reached financial sustainability? If not, what is this solutio’s plan to ensure financial sustainability? Do the main partners have enough stake to sustain the solution? If this project requires limited budget, how will other resources be secured to maintain or grow this work?

We launched this product at the end of 2013 & it is not yet sustainable. We have two revenue streams: direct app sales to customers and sales of app bundles for free distribution as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR) within large organisations. We have started to sell apps through App Store, Mac App Store, Play Store & Amazon; Windows Store is pending. We are in talks with a large telecoms company about their purchase of multiple Talk Around IT apps. Our work with DSA will provide the template for localisation. DSA are providing key data on culture specific marketing, design and other essential topics. Both of our revenue streams will increase proportionally as we add each new language. We will build on our network of connections to European organisations to identify those with compatible CSR programs.

Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the Partners to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.

The Neuro Hero project manager attended the Digital Skills Academy (DSA) Expo in 2013 and met their project selection team. She explained that Neuro Hero was developing digital solutions to address a problem that affects over 20 million people in Europe; the problem of communication difficulties after stroke, brain injury and other conditions such as dementia. The app was of special interest to DSA as it has a focus on scalability and User Centred Design theory. The DSA then approached Neuro Hero and invited us to become an industry partner. They chose to work with us because our disruptive technology would allow their team to gain professional experience using a User Centred approach while developing an innovative digital product to create lasting social change.

About the Co-Creation
Barriers: What main barriers may you have encountered to co-create during the creation and implementation of the project and how did you try to overcome them?

The main barrier has been the iterative nature of software development and the knock on effect changes can make within a timeline. This has been amplified by the fact that the two teams, though working together, are conducting work independently with regular progress reports. The primary delay arose from our decision to design Talk Around IT for iOS and Android as they are tablet compatible. DSA’s research showed that the majority of our target market has access to Windows. To address this, we developed TAI for Windows. This created a delay in the overall rollout of the project but has allowed us to use the research effectively to reach a larger audience.

Governance: What is the type of the relationship between the partners? (e.g. joint venture, contractual relationship, joint project...)

We are engaged in a joint project with special mention of the understanding between Neuro Hero and Digital Skills Academy to co-promote all work completed collaboratively. The product and intellectual property of Talk Around IT will remain the property of Neuro Hero.
This relationship is mutually beneficial as Neuro Hero gains valuable resources and the DSA team gain real world experience working in a digital organisation.

Interaction model: How is the project a transformative partnership? How is the interaction transforming the partnering organizations and their employees/ leadership in terms of creating a new vision, new management practices, new skills and new organizational structures? Please provide for concrete examples

Working in partnership provides challenges that often don’t arise when working within a small team. Through this collaboration both organisations have had the opportunity to better manage communication and create detailed working documents necessary when two teams with distinct disciplines work together. The soft skills learned by both teams include adaptation to change and peer learning when reviewing and using feedback provided by end users. This feedback provides the basis for updates and changes in Talk Around IT apps. The interaction has allowed both teams to identify shared goals and will provide the structure for future joint collaborations.

How did you find out about this competition?

As an awardee of SEI Aviva had the privilege of traveling to visit Ashoka in Bangalore and has followed your work ever since.