Telepractice as a Service Delivery Model for School-Aged Children in Need of Speech, Language, and Communication Intervention

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A person using a standard desktop with a webcam,

SLP using a standard desktop with a webcam, and a secondary laptop to provide intervention via the web to a student in a remote location

According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association “communication disorders are among the most common disabilities in the United States” (ASHA, 2008). More specifically, national demographic data gathered in 2003 identified that of the estimated 6,100,000 children between ages 3-21 served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the public schools, approximately 24% of students (1,470,000 students) received services for a primary speech or language disorder (U.S. Department of Education, 2005). However, despite this clear need for services, there is a well-documented shortage of speech-language pathologists (SLPs; American Association for Employment in Education, 2008; Chmelynski, 2005).

In order to compensate for the shortage of SLPs and the need for speech-language intervention services school systems have started to employ innovative strategies, such as using telepractice, to maximize existing resources and increase access to SLPs. “Telepractice is the application of telecommunications technology to the delivery of speech language pathology … services at a distance by linking clinician to client/patient or clinician to clinician for assessment, intervention, and/or consultation” (ASHA, 2013), and is a recognized form of service delivery within the field of speech pathology.

Using telepractice does not mean investing in costly equipment and technological infrastructure. In fact, telepractice can be implemented successfully using off-the-shelf and readily available technology. The most important components are computers with webcams, access to high speed Internet (preferably hard-wired), as well as a HIPAA compliant videoconferencing program (such as GoToMeeting). Using these tools, a SLP can replicate a face-to-face interaction on the computer, and can therefore provide intervention services from a remote location using the Internet. This means that SLPs can be accessed to help meet the needs of students with communication impairments, and the shortage of SLPs can be addressed using technology.

This movement within the field of speech-language pathology towards telepractice service delivery is exciting, and the evidence in support of successful implementation with students with speech, language, and communication needs is growing (Boisvert, 2012; Hall, 2013; Hall & Boisvert, 2012; Theodorus, 2011). It is important to note, however, that telepractice is not necessarily an effective method of service delivery for all students, and careful consideration of client candidacy needs to be undertaken before starting any services.

References:

American Association for Employment in Education. (2008). Educator supply and demand in the United States: 2008 Executive Summary. Columbus, OH: Author.

American Speech-Language Hearing Association. 2013. Professional Issues – Telepractice.

American Speech-Language Hearing Association. 2008. Incidence and prevalence of communication disorders and hearing loss in children – 2008 edition.

Boisvert, M. (2012). An Investigation of the Efficacy of Speech and Language Interventions with Students with ASD Using Telepractice. Open Access Dissertations. Paper 536.

Chmelynski, C. (2005). Schools are having a hard time finding enough speech pathologists. School Board News.

Hall, N. (2013). An Investigation of the Efficacy of Direct and Indirect AAC Service Provision via Telepractice. Open Access Dissertations. Paper 743.

Hall, N., & Boisvert, M. (2012). Telepractice to provide Language Intervention to a Student using AAC: A case study.  International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Pittsburg, PA.

GoToMeeting. (2013). Citrix Online, LLC.

Theodorus, D. (2011). Telepractice in speech-language pathology: The evidence, the challenges, and the future. Perspectives on Telepractice, 1, 10-21.

U.S. Department of Education. (2005). To assure the free appropriate public education of all Americans: Twenty-seventh annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

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