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iPad helps child find his voice

The Apple iPad is a must have gadget for many people.

The tablet can be used to read books, play games even surf the net.

Now new research at the University of Kentucky is helping a Jessamine County 5-year-old find his voice.

When Hunter Harrison rolls into a room so does his curiosity and his mischievous humor.

What you wouldn't know is that Hunter can't speak.

Born with a neuromuscular disability Hunter has experienced delays in his motor abilities including his speech.

"Its hard when you have a child that really can't tell you exactly what he's feeling, what he wants or what he needs," said Melissa Harrison, Hunter's mother.

Most children begin to make speech sounds in their first year, not Hunter, but its not stopped him from learning.

He knows his numbers, letters, colors, shapes and he's learning to read all thanks to a popular piece of technology.

"The iPad has really helped because he can push a button and tell us he wants milk," said Harrison.

Hunter is part of a research project with the Human Development Institute at the University of Kentucky.

Once a week he comes to the Communication Sciences and Disorders Clinic to work with Dr. Jane Kleinert and graduate students.

"Data shows that augmentative systems actually support the development of oral speech," said Dr. Jane Kleinert, associate professor in the Division of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

While it may look like Hunter is just playing games on his iPad, he's really receiving speech therapy.

"The incredible technology that's come with the iPad has made it possible for those kids to look like everybody else," said Dr. Kleinert.

He is learning not only to pronounce words, but use them in a sentence.

"Now you can give him a book and he can sit down and read it clear enough for you to understand and what he is trying to say," said Hunter's mother.

Children are meant to chatter, and Hunter's progress at UK might just be laying the foundation for other children just like him.

"Its been a blessing to us, we are grateful that Hunter has the potential to help other people."

Hunter's iPad has a special program on it for his therapy, Dr. Kleinert hopes the research at UK will result in more Kentucky schools and children using the new technology.


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