Many children struggle through school with speech disorders that make it hard for kids to communicate, and also hurts selfesteem.
But Case Western Reserve and the Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center hope to change that with a virtual simulation lab.
It looks like a mini movie theater, but these screens are meant to simulate the real world.
“Can I have a cheeseburger, please?” Case Junior Michael Molinaro is demonstrating how a speech disorder patient would interact with a McDonald's employee.
Project developer, Dr. Stacy Williams explains, "It's able to bridge the skills that they're receiving downstairs at the Cleveland hearing and speech center as well as with the outside world with what they live with every day."
Project developer doctor Stacy Williams is out of sight a few feet away.
She is controlling the actor's responses with a computer.
"We can actually create any type of training situation with the touch of a button."
The movies include every day distractions and each time can be a completely different experience. "It's a safe environment. It allows them to practice and they can do it over and over again," says Dr. Williams
Participants wear biofeedback monitors measuring heart rate and skin temperature, "To be able to see if the patient is truly perceiving that learning environment as real."
It can benefit students too.
Michael Molinaro is studying to be a speech pathologist. The program can also put him into a scenario with a parent or patient. "I think it's fantastic. I think it's a really amazing learning tool that we can use to become better speech pathologists."
"They're learning how to interact with people, how to ask important questions, how to gather information, think critically about it, come to a good decision or diagnosis," Dr. Williams adds.
Doctor Williams is waiting on approval to allow children to begin using the lab.
Her first set of clients will include those with stuttering problems and patients who use computerized communication devices.