About 20,000 People are Waiting on Speech Therapy…in Ireland Alone
In Ireland, the 2005 Disability Act requires all assessments on children suspected of needing any type of special care to be carried out within three months. Unfortunately, that’s not happening in many areas. The most recent data available suggests there are about 20,000 people waiting either assessment or treatment. Some people have been waiting more than 18 months for an assessment and treatment.
Perhaps even more unfortunate is the fact that Ireland is not alone. In the United States, we face a similar shortage of speech-language pathologists, where children and adults alike are waiting to receive treatment simply because there are not enough qualified therapists out there to handle the current demands of the field. According to a 2014 survey of schools, conducted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), 82% of SLPs worked full time, but 48% reported the number of job openings were higher than the number of job seekers. While 79% said they have an increased workload and number of cases as a result of the shortage. Interestingly enough, only three percent of those surveyed said there was no impact from the shortage.
While it’s true SLP employment is projected to grow 19% between 2012 and 2022, at a rate much faster than the average compared to all other occupations, the reality of the situation as it stands is the demand for SLP services will continue to grow. With the aging population needing assistance with recovery from illness and injury, and an increase in the population in general, we face the situation that many patients in need will go without the services they could greatly benefit from.
Telespeech therapy is working to fill the void for the time being, by using technology to allow SLPs to see their patients virtually. The majority of telepractice is used in an educational setting – with more than 30,000 telespeech sessions conducted at schools across the country. Beyond schools, it can also be used in client homes, hospitals, outpatient care facilities, and even business offices. Per the ASHA, as long as services comply with professional, state, federal, and institutional guidelines, the possible uses for telepractice are limitless.
SLPs are required to provide the same standard of care whether they are seeing their patients face-to-face or virtually with teletherapy. Each patient undergoes an evaluation to determine where they are at the time services begin and to create a plan of action to address the patient’s specific needs and areas of concern. Because there are some situations where telespeech is not the best course of action for the patient, such as when muscle tone needs to be evaluated or when disabilities with vision, hearing, or cognition come into play, conventional therapy will always have a place. Any SLP licensed for conventional therapy can extend his or her service to telespeech to help those who can benefit from telespeech.