October 14, 2019

Wastepipe toobaloo and echo mic

In December 2018, I wrote here about the toobaloo, a simple toy for children that improves the perception of the auditory feedback of speech. The commercially available toobaloo is made for children and a bit too small (too short) for adults. Thus I considered how to make a larger one. In a DIY market, I found some wastepipe components suitable for putting them together to a toobaloo for adults, for example, as a cheap aid that can reduce stuttering during telephone conversation. Several of my stuttering friends have tested the wastepipe toobaloo with different results, but some of them are enthusiastic.

Initially I believed I would have invented the wastepipe toobaloo – but far from it: In France, not a few teachers have made suchlike self-made toobaloos for their students in order to help them improve their speech and reading abilities. The photos below show French self-made toobaloos for children. See, for example, also this website: instahu.net/tag/toobaloo,

French self-made toobaloos French self-made toobaloos French self-made toobaloos
French self-made toobaloos French self-made toobaloos French self-made toobaloos

The toobaloo is so well known in France probably because of the work of Alfred Tomatis, a French ENT physician (1920–2001) who ascribed several developmental disorders, among them reading disability, autism, and stuttering to an auditory processing disorder. His theories have always been controversial and may in detail no longer be accepted as scientific today, but his basic ideas about the importance of auditory perception may still be right.

Unfortunately, a scientific study of the effect of the toobaloo on stuttering has not yet been conducted. There is, however, a study of the fluency-enhancing effect of another toy, namely of the “echo mic” which generates an echo in a simple mechanical way (without current) when someone speaks into it. In the following short video, first the toobaloo and then the echo mic is shown.

The effect of the echo mic – technically correct: of a passive resonator – was investigated by Stuart, Miller, Kalinowski, and Rastatter (1997). Eight participants (seven adults and a teenager) who stuttered read two passages, one with and one without the echo mic (Playskool Model Music Microphone 312). The device included a diaphragm, spring , and resonator housed in a plastic outer shell. Participants were instructed not to use any strategies or techniques to control or reduce disfluencies during the experiment and to speak at a normal loudness and rate.

Five adults and the adolescent showed a reduction in stuttering frequency while the remaining two adults showed no change. The mean values for stuttering frequency for the control and resonator conditions were 33.4 and 24.1, respectively. Stuttering frequency was reduced by approximately 30% in the resonator condition – a statistically significant reduction. The authors conclude that “these and similar inexpensive commercially available devices may be employed with individuals who stutter, particularly children, as a means of enhancing fluency both within and outside the therapeutic environment. Employing a toy may increase a child’s engagement or participation in the therapeutic process.” (p. 1345)

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