Telespeech: the Solution to the Speech Therapy Shortage

by Tera Tuten on September 9, 2011

The astounding technological innovations of our time have instilled a sense of hope in people — a sense that almost anything can be accomplished. For the estimated 300,000 children in the world with no access to the speech therapy they need, they’re looking for hope, and they’re looking for solutions.

Technology’s contribution to this problem is Telespeech: the use of telecommunications to provide speech pathology care to those unable to access it.

Why It’s Necessary

Speech pathology education continues to evolve, and more and more potential speech language pathologists see the benefits of enrolling in valuable, additional programs to acquire more training and knowledge that can lead to better jobs and opportunities.

This behavior contributes to the shortage of speech language pathologists currently practicing, making it difficult for potential patients to attain the care they need.

Speech pathology employment is expected to grow by 19% between the years of 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, partly due to the aging of the baby-boom generation and the possibility of these people getting neurological and speech disorders.

In order to help compensate for the shortage and the increased need for speech pathologists, Telespeech technology allows a currently practicing pathologist to be anywhere in the world, helping anyone in the world, just with the click of a button.

On top of the shortage, many people — both adults and children — live in areas where they cannot get the speech therapy services they so desperately need. Telespeech eliminates this barrier and connects clients with the professionals who can help them.

How It Works

Telespeech provides care to people with speech disorders — whether from stroke, injury, illness, or any other reason — by creating a medium through which they can work with speech language pathologists.

From the comfort of their own homes or through the convenience of their own schools, patients from 2 years old to more than 85 years old can interact with pathologists via video conferencing software to receive assessment, counseling, treatment, or prevention services.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association considers Telespeech to be an appropriate delivery model for the speech and audiology profession, and there have been many results indicating the care administered through Telespeech is equal to the care provided in a physical school or clinic.

Not only are people receiving the care they’ve needed — they’re receiving the same quality of care they would have received if a speech therapist was in their school or home.

Where It’s Going

This practice, while accepted by ASHA, is not yet widely used; 11% of audiologists and speech pathologists are engaged in Telepractice services, according to an ASHA survey.

However, 43% of the surveyed non-users indicated they’re interested in using Telespeech services in the future, and one of the biggest reasons the others conveyed uncertainty was due to a lack of knowledge about Telespeech in general. With an increased dispersal of information about Telespeech, interest has the potential to increase, as well.

Of those already active in Telespeech services, 53% expressed an interest in expanding their Telepractice services — a good indicator of the potential for growth in this subset of the industry.

How It’s Evolving

New additions to Telespeech delivery are technologically enhancing the method. VocoVision is a company that strives to use Telespeech to solve the lack of availability and lack of quality issues in the speech pathology industry.

It works to not only provide a worthy alternative to in-person therapy but to also go one step above current Telespeech programs. 

VocoVision provides children with the only Telespeech service involving touch-screen capabilities on top of the other typical Telespeech benefits. Kids who don’t understand how to use a mouse or a keyboard can receive the same interactive care other people can receive through traditional Telespeech methods.

Furthermore, young children or autistic children can focus on the speech pathology lessons and games instead of being distracted by the necessity of learning how to use computer hardware.

CONCLUSION

In the face of a shortage of pathologists and an increased difficulty in attaining the care necessary for children and adults to treat their speech disorders, Telespeech presents a viable solution. Its effectiveness has been shown, and its techniques continue to evolve along with technological innovation.

The effectiveness of Telespeech isn’t just a theory — many have reported details of its successes, including the work of Children’s Therapy Place in different school programs in Washington. Now children and adults alike can take advantage of the possibilities technology and Internet resources offer to receive the therapy and treatment that will help them communicate in their daily lives.

Sources:

http://www.asha.org/practice/telepractice/

http://www.vocovision.com/why-vocovision/

http://www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/practice/telepractice/SurveyofTelepractice.pdf

http://www.slpjobs.com/qna/slp-shortage/

http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos099.htm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBC0YqCOpUw

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

SLP 09.16.11 at 4:32 pm

Just FYI, Pathologists are not the same as Speech-Language Pathologists. These terms cannot be used interchangeably.

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