Researchers piloting a listening and spoken language therapy telepractice program have identified several key issues to plan for when shifting from traditional service delivery to telepractice.
The program, Tele-intervention for Cochlear Implant Therapy Exchange (Tele-CITE), is a grant-funded effort of the University of Colorado's Alliance for Technology, Learning, and Society (ATLAS) and The Listen Foundation, a Colorado nonprofit. The Listen Foundation provides Auditory-Verbal Therapy to children who are deaf or hard of hearing and learning to communicate by listening and talking. The Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI) provided the grant with the goal of creating academic-community partnerships to advance health-related initiatives.
In piloting telepractice delivery of listening and spoken language therapy with two children—a 2-year-old and another just turning 3—the researchers noted unique challenges regarding licensure, travel requirements, scheduling, payment, technology, the additional time therapists need to plan for telepractice sessions, and the need to improve communication between professionals and parents. The full results of the pilot study will be published later this year in The Volta Review (Stith, Stredler-Brown, Greenway, & Kahn, in press).
For instance, because the therapist was located in one state and the child lived in another, the therapist was required to obtain licensure from the state in which the child lived—this required time and money. One family did not have sufficient bandwidth in the home to conduct the telepractice sessions. As a result, parents and therapist drove to local universities where the best equipment and technical support were available. Although access to high-quality technology was an advantage, the driving time for both parents and professional was not inconsequential. And the therapist needed time to share session plans with the family before the session began. This gave the therapist and family members an opportunity to identify materials that would be used, and to ensure the materials in both locations were similar.
To prepare for project piloting, principal investigator John Bennett and researchers reviewed telepractice literature, experimented with the technology, and consulted with Listening and Spoken Language Specialists (LSLS) about telepractice. Grant staff assessed the status of existing equipment-and evaluated physical space, including acoustics and lighting—in each child's home and in the LSLS office.
Tele-CITE was supported in part by a grant from the National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health. Researchers have submitted applications for continued grant funds to maintain the project's momentum and move it to the implementation stage. For more information, visit the University of Colorado's website.