Each May, we celebrate Better Speech and Hearing month to raise awareness about communication disorders and the speech-language pathologist’s role in providing treatment. This year’s celebration of Better Speech and Hearing month at the Elizabeth Lee Black School is unprecedented, as we embrace new ways to provide speech and language services to our students and their families during the school closure. We have always worked closely as a department, but this experience has only strengthened our teamwork and collaboration to meet the needs of our students. Our speech department chose to highlight some of the strategies we are using to support our students at home as well as celebrate the many positive things we have experienced during this time.
One major role we serve is providing augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) to our many students with complex communication needs. We knew it would be a challenge to provide support for our AAC users and their families without the hands-on approach that we typically utilize; however, our department embraced this new challenge using a team approach. Prior to the school closure, the SLPs had started evaluations and applications to obtain communication devices and software for several students. Through the efforts of many, multiple students have received an iPad with communication software or a dedicated device during the school closure. Some of the organizations and companies that have been instrumental in making this happen include Variety, Tobii Dynavox, and Saltillo. These companies have adopted new procedures and direct support through virtual meetings and trainings to support our speech department, students, and families. This situation has given us the opportunity to work more closely with families to educate them on how to best support their child’s communication needs. Here is a quote from one of the SLPs in our department: “Overall, this shutdown has brought the therapists and the students’ families together. Many families have more time to focus on their student’s communication needs, and they are becoming more involved. They are understanding now why it is so important for them to have a way to communicate. It is great for the therapists to hear of the progress they are making at home as well. This rapport between families and therapists will be lasting!”
Though this unique situation has been challenging for everyone on so many levels, it has been positive in so many ways as well. Here are a few of the highlights of things families have shared with us over the past several weeks:
- Several parents report more interaction between siblings
- One parent reported her child spontaneously produced a sign that they had been working on
- A parent reported that she’s had more time to familiarize herself with her child’s device and he will show her where things are if she can’t find them
- A parent reported that her child is imitating more words
- One child has started calling “Mama” to get his mother’s attention, which he has never done previously!
We look forward to working with our families during the upcoming school year!
Jill Brugger, MA, CCC-SLP
Abigail Hagan, MS, CCC-SLP
Kristin Jordan, MS, CCC-SLP
Stephanie Jordan, MA, CCC-SLP
Amy Moczulski, MA, CCC-SLP
Carly Stewart, MA, CCC-SLP
Emily Woomer, MA, CCC-SLP
Mariah Ryan, MS, CF-SLP