Date of Award
Communication Sciences & Disorders
Purpose: Schools across America closed abruptly and indefinitely starting March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) working in these schools turned to telepractice to meet the needs of their clients. Telepractice is a relatively new service delivery model in the field of speech-language pathology. Challenges related to telepractice include clinicians’ limited hours of training for telepractice, clients’ lack of access to telehelpers during therapy, and both clinician and client beginning to work from home, and issues with working from home. The aim of the current study was to assess how these issues affect telepractice in school SLPs compared to teletherapists who had already been using telepractice as a delivery model prior to the pandemic. Method: An online survey was sent out to school SLPs who began telepractice in March 2020 and teletherapists who used telepractice as a delivery model before and through school closures. Survey questions related to structure, process, and outcome of teletherapy. Twenty-nine school-based SLPs providing services for grades K-5 who had experience using telepractice before March 2020, and 180 SLPs who began using this mode of service delivery emergently completed the survey. Results: School SLPs new to teletherapy reported difficulty 16% more on average than SLPs already using teletherapy in quality of service. In the area of process, school SLPs struggled most with accessing resources. For structure, both groups struggled with clients being unable to access reliable technology. Finally, issues with outcome for both groups included loss of clients and clients progressing to long-term goals as expected.
Conclusion: Problems in structure continue to persist with mismanagement of laptop technology in elementary schools. Problems in process will likely alleviate soon; inexperience with telepractice and insufficient time for preparation seem to be the main cause of problems in process, and as SLPs work with telepractice more, they will have better understanding of this mode of therapy. Problems in outcome will likely be exacerbated by lost learning days, and effects will likely be seen in student performance beyond the 2019-2020 school year. Reflecting on this data, it is important for schools to provide support for school SLPs as they continue to adapt to coronavirus-related changes. Additionally, it is important to recognize that these short-term changes in structure, process, and outcome across for teletherapists and school therapists may affect the long-term progress of their clients.
Hilker, Charlotte May, "Emergent Shift to Telepractice during the COVID-19 Pandemic by School-based Speech-Language Pathologists" (2020). Undergraduate Honors Thesis Collection. 552.