Reading, Writing and… Touchscreens?
Though reading and writing have always been considered fundamental in a child’s education, each year millions of children enter high school unable to read beyond a second grade level. In its most basic form, reading is the product of decoding – a process of using letter sounds to recognize words. meanwhile in 2011, the National Center for Educational Statistics reported that more than 1,000,000 children enrolled in public education have speech or language impairments. As the number of adults who are functionally illiterate remains stagnant in our country , it’s time to look for creative solutions in uncommon places.
There is a fundamental connection between spoken and written language. From a very young age, communication skills such as joint attention can aid in early print awareness and conventions/concepts of print. Development of speech sounds and phonological rules impact letter-sound correspondence and the ability to decode words. Vocabulary skills are linked to the word retrieval and rapid naming needed by fluent readers. Understanding of grammar, sentence, narrative and expository structures help children gather, process and analyze information from a variety of text types.
Given the variety of spoken language skills that support written language, it follows that children with speech and language impairments face particular challenges when learning to be fluent readers. In remote areas of the country, schools and communities sometimes face a lack of qualified speech-language pathologists to address these communication needs. Because of high demand for speech and language services, even in urban areas, a facility may rely on other professionals to address literacy issues and ask SLPs to focus on the spoken language needs of their students. In these situations, parents and families may look for supplementary help for their child. Telepractice is one way to access the unique knowledge and skills an SLP can bring to written language issues.
Telepractice is defined by the American Speech–Language–Hearing Association (ASHA) as ‘the application of telecommunications technology to the delivery of speech language pathology services at a distance.’ According to ASHA’s 2014 SIG 18 Telepractice Services survey results, approximately 22% of SLPs who provided services through telepractice addressed literacy and written language issues. Research continues to emerge indicating very little marked differences between face-to-face and teletherapy services. According to A Field Study of Telepractice for School Intervention Using the ASHA NOMS K-12 Database conducted in 2013, ‘the results suggest that school-age children with communication disorders who receive speech-language services in a direct, in-person service delivery model can also receive these services and make progress in a telepractice service delivery model.’ Additionally, an article published in 2010 in the Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, Vol. 41, indicates that telepractice is an effective method for evaluating language and literacy skills. As the practice of online therapy continues to grow, more and more educators and healthcare providers are seeing the value of telepractice to deliver speech therapy services to students who may have missed out on this valuable skill otherwise.
As a leading provider of web-based speech therapy services to school systems across the country, VocoVision is paving the way for remote therapy services to increase literacy in school-age children. Through the use of online conferencing software, VocoVision’s unique TouchScreen TeleSpeech™ technology and partnerships with several of the leading special education and therapy staffing agencies, their services solve a range of staffing challenges.
VocoVision also offers in-home therapy so parents can participate in their child’s session and utilize the information they learn to reinforce the skills in a child’s day-to-day routine. In-home therapy operates with a strong emphasis on play and fun. Often colorful, animated PowerPoint games and slideshows are used in treatment. Therapists will utilize sites such as pbskids.org, which features coloring pages, tic-tac-toe games and other engaging stories and activities easily incorporated into telepractice. These games assist in the generalization of language skills in connected speech. A typical in-home session might consist of:
It is estimated that one in ten fifth graders has a smart phone. Our youth today truly are the “Touchscreen Generation.” To incorporate a touchscreen into their therapy sessions not only brings a sense of familiarity but also makes them feel as if they are being rewarded while they are learning valuable skills. “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Dr. Seuss wrote these words in 1978 and they remain true. It is imperative that each child, regardless of socioeconomic status or geographical location, has the same opportunities to learn and grow. Teletherapy has unique potential to support a child’s spoken and written language needs regardless of their location or background.
 ASHA, 2001: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2001). Roles and responsibilities of speech-language pathologists with respect to reading and writing in children and adolescents [Guidelines]. Available from www.asha.org/policy.
[i] Content written in partnership with Nate Cornish, CCC-SLP