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November 18, 2002

Dawn Mercer's Health Alert: computers helping deaf talk

From: WIS, SC
Nov. 18, 2002

(Columbia) Nov. 18, 2002 - Baldi is the first computer program designed specifically to teach deaf children how to talk.

Pamela Connors, the director of the Tucker Maxon Oral School's technology center in Portland, Oregon, says, "Here's a way for these children to begin catching up with the language that they have not overheard and been exposed to because of their deafness."

Baldi was developed for children at Tucker Maxon, where nearly 50 percent of the children are deaf. Many, like Shayne, have cochlear implants, electronic devices to help restore their hearing.

Shayne's mother Cheryl Meyrick says, "A lot of times I would have to say things, it could be like 100,000 times, before he would get it and we could move on to the next word."

Now Baldi does the repeating, and the learning goes a lot faster.

Baldi teaches nearly 400 vocabulary and grammar lessons. Shawn Sanford, student Rebecca's father, says, "This is a reinforcer, and it helps her to see that, OK, when you're saying the word, your mouth opens up like this."

Baldi does have limitations. It can't tell the children if they're pronouncing the word correctly, and it still sounds like a computer.

The Baldi software is currently being tested in 15 schools for the deaf in the United States and Canada. The technology could someday help illiterate people learn to read and could help people with autism communicate better.

by Dawn Mercer

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