MND Association, Cornwall Branch
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Letter to MND Association

In praise of iPad "Speak it" App



Long Cottage
Tinkers Hill
PL23 1PY
Telephone 01726 870081




Dear Sir / Madam,


My wife and I have recently become members of the Motor Neurone Disease Association and after reading an excellent article titled “My friend Tilly” in the personal experiences section of the Thumb Print Magazine I felt that we should write and tell you about a communication device my wife uses.
It has made a tremendous difference to my wife and if it helps any of your readers we would both feel pleased.


My wife Gayle, was diagnosed with Motor Neurone disease in March 2012 and suffers from Pseudo Bulbar Palsy. Her symptoms started with slurred speech in September 2009 and gradually over a period of 6 months she had lost all power of speech. She was a special needs teacher and managed to carry on teaching until July 2010 when she had to leave on ill health. Her health continued to deteriorate and in December 2010 she was finding it extremely difficult to swallow food and fluids.
She also started finding it difficult to write and quite soon her handwriting became illegible and this became very frustrating for her. Gayle has had a tough time over the last two and a half years as she had been told she was suffering from a “functional problem” so coming to terms with MND has been very difficult for her , as your readers know so well.


Gayle’s major difficult was her inability to communicate effectively with our 4 children who live in different parts of the country and with friends and family. She missed talking to the children so much and even though she communicated by text on her mobile it wasn’t quite the same as a conversation. When we were with friends and family and Gayle wanted to tell them some news or response to a question, she had to use her phone to write out her message and then she would pass her phone from one person to another so that they could see what she had written. Gayle found this extremely frustrating, as it was such a slow process.


She was referred to the Speech and Language team who introduced us to the Lightwriter Keyboard. Unfortunately Gayle did not find the Lightwriter as user friendly as she expected and decided it wasn’t quite right for her.


Gayle Sherriff
Gayle with son Matthew and iPad

Our son Matthew had recently got himself a new iPhone and he experimented trying different text / speech applications that his mum could use to communicate more effectively. He found an excellent application called “Speak It” a text to Speech programme costing £1.49 and downloaded it onto his iPhone. Gayle loved the programme, as now people could hear the words when she typed them out. She found the predictive text to be an excellent facility on the programme as it would work out the correct word you wanted. Gayle sometimes miscues while typing and hits the wrong key but the predictive text is very smart and usually guesses the correct word well. She also liked the fact that you could choose a variety of voices. She listened to the English and American voices both women and men , but preferred “Rachel” an English voice that cost an extra £0.69, well worth it said Gayle as its got a much “posher” voice than I used to have. Matthew suggested that we should buy an iPad, as it would have a bigger keys to text with and it could be used for a variety of things. Sometimes you have to listen to your children, as they sometimes know more than you, but especially with modern technology and Matthew was spot on. We purchased the iPad 2 ( Wi – Fi 16 GB ) for £399 and downloaded the Speak It application for £1.49 plus £0.69 for “Rachel” money well spent.


You now can get the same one for £300 from Amazon and £329 from Currys. They have now brought out the iPad 3 a newer model (Wi – Fi 16 G B ) for £399.


Gayle loves her iPad and takes it everywhere and it has transformed her ability to communicate, as in large family gatherings she can write a message and then press the speak it button and everyone now hears her “posh “ voice. When she was in hospital recently having a PEG fitted, she was able to record messages on her “Speak IT” programme and save them, then play it to the staff to tell them she was unable to speak but understood everything. She also wrote out questions she wanted to ask the consultants, saved them and was able to play it to them when she needed to.


Gayle has also recently changed her phone as her contract was up and has now got the i phone 4 as well. She has downloaded the “Speak IT “ application on to it and of course paid extra for Rachel’s voice. It is exactly the same but the keys on the texting pad are slightly smaller, but she manages fine. With the Speak IT application, you can change the font size to suit your eyesight and have the sound up if you are in a large group, it’s a very flexible programme.


We find the Speak IT application on the iPad very useful on car journeys, as Gayle can talk to me through her iPad, as I drive, while before we would either travel in silence or me doing all the talking.


Gayle and I would thoroughly recommend the Speak IT application for the iPad and now that the iPad has come down in price, it’s a great buy and hopefully help people with MND who are unable to speak.


Yours faithfully,


Andrew T Sherriff