A wearable device is being developed to support those learning a breathing technique to manage their stammering. Jordi Fernandez of Respira introduces the new technology, and invites participants to take part in a research study (below).
Respira is a wearable device that acts as a virtual coach. It monitors breathing patterns, syllables per breath and anxiety levels. It then provides real time feedback (i.e. vibrates) to remind the user whenever good speech-related breathing practices are neglected during the day.
The device will be able to assist any person who stammers in learning new speech-related breathing techniques. Some of these techniques have been discussed and demonstrated to be effective in a number of studies   .
The physical aspects of any speech-related breathing technique can be monitored via our proprietary technology that focuses on ensuring that exhalation is correctly synchronised with the syllables spoken. The algorithms compare data gathered from three types of sensors to deliver a full map of the user’s breathing patterns (i.e. diaphragmatic breathing and abdominal breathing).
Individual performance history
Respira also records performance history to allow users to track their improvement on a dashboard, since self-reflection is a critical aspect of the therapy and this also helps with motivation to maintain improvements in speech fluency control away from the clinic. As the dashboard is shared with the Speech and Language Therapist (SLT), the clinician is able to follow the user’s progress, removing the need to produce ‘self-reports’ during therapy sessions. Based on that objective data, the SLT is able to quickly identify both appropriate and inappropriate physiological patterns. The therapy program can then be adjusted to meet the needs of that specific client.
Finally, Respira records anonymous discretionary physiological data to generate a pool of information to be used to scientifically understand the mechanisms behind chronic stammering. Respira therefore acts at three levels to help people who stammer: directly on the user, through objective feedback via their SLTs and by enabling big data research on the physiology of stammering.
Learning new patterns
Respira is designed to help with the transfer and maintenance of fluency techniques that have been taught by speech language clinicians, and to provide the user with continuous awareness of their use of fluency enhancing skills, helping them to gain control in daily scenarios.
People who stammer may have many years of experience using disrupted vocal tract coordination patterns, and establishing new speaking patterns can be very hard. For many, the problem lies not so much in learning new speech control techniques, but in being able to apply them consistently and in a range of situations away from the clinic, when, in the moment it is all to easy to forget to apply practices that went well with the immediate feedback of the clinician and in the safe confines of the speech therapy clinic.
Also, people who stammer do not do so all of the time. For those who stammer less frequently, it is very easy to forget to implement helpful techniques because, for the greater majority of the time, they are not needed, and thus become neglected. A physical or virtual (i.e. Respira) coach will monitor speech control, regardless of whether a speaking situation is feared, or not.
As the device is worn, it learns about the user, providing a customised response that will maximise the adoption of the new habits. The user is also able to create targets to tailor the speed of the learning experience.
Respira (www.respira.io) comprises a team of scientists, engineers and people who stammer, working together with SLTs to develop wearable electronics and practical techniques to help people who stutter to improve fluency.
We are planning to run a trial study. We would like to hear from adults who stammer (18+) interested in trying out therapy incorporating our device. If the study is run, the therapy will be provided via professional SLTs recruited through the Stammer Trust (http://stammertrust.co.uk) in combination with our first Respira prototypes. The data gathered will form part of a clinical trial study conducted by the University of Reading.
If you are interested, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Conelea, C. A., Rice, K. A., & Woods, D. W. (2006). Regulated breathing as a treatment for stuttering: A review of the empirical evidence. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0100191
 Blomgren, M. (2013). Behavioral treatments for children and adults who stutter: a review. http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S31450
 Stankiewicz, B., Zieliński, K., Darowski, M., et al. (2015). EtCO2-Based Biofeedback Method of Breath Regulation Increases Speech Fluency of Stuttering People. http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/aoa-2015-0046