Navigating Speech-Language Therapy and the Speech-Language Evaluation
The Pandemic Edition 2 : Pro Tips for Parents
Each May, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) celebrates Better
Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM) to raise awareness about communication disorders and the
role speech-language pathologists play in providing life-altering treatment. This May, in light of
the environment created by the Covid-19 pandemic, ASHA has chosen “Communication at
Work” as the designated campaign theme. This campaign seeks to inform the public about ways
they can enhance everyday communication at and from home, and addresses some of the unique
challenges faced by those with speech and hearing issues during these unprecedented times.
Just what are some of the unique challenges that are facing families of children with
communication disorders and concerns? Along with the other major stresses placed on families
due to social distancing measures, parents of children receiving speech-language services have
the added challenge of figuring out how their children can continue to receive their services.
Other parents whose children are not currently receiving services have concerns about their
speech and language development. They may be confused about how to go about the speech-
language evaluation process and getting their child services in an effective and timely manner.
All of these parents may be wondering how to best help their children continue to grow and
maintain their speech skills at home (see article: How Parents Can Help Facilitate Their Child’s
Speech and Language During Covid-19 School Closures).
This article seeks to provide parents with information that can help them navigate the challenges
associated with obtaining treatment and assessment for their child with communication
difficulties amidst school closures. The information shared, along with links to additional
resources, will hopefully answer some of the questions you may have regarding the current
speech and special education process.
What is teletherapy for speech?
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in school closings throughout the world, and school
administrators have been challenged to find alternatives that will meet the needs of their students
without causing major regression in their learning. To this end, many have implemented online
learning or virtual learning options for regular classroom instruction and for special services, as
well. Regarding speech therapy, Teletherapy in the field of Speech and Language, though not a
new concept, is rapidly becoming a “new necessity” at this time. In most cases, live teletherapy
sessions are conducted very similarly to traditional speech therapy, but instead of being in the
same room, students and therapists choose a time to interact via live video conferencing. The
actual therapy is largely the same as the therapist would deliver face-to-face, using traditional
therapy techniques and activities sometimes enhanced through use of innovative software. Some
of the session time may be devoted to parent training to help the caregiver learn how to carryover
learned skills at home. In other cases, speech-pathologists may record videos for their students,
with lessons and activities specifically tailored to your child’s needs, to be watched later. Still
other speech-pathologists are “pushing-in” to regular classroom on-line instruction to provide
support for those students who require services this way. Research has shown that providing
virtual services in these ways can be highly effective for most students.
How can I get teletherapy speech services for my child?
If you are parent of a child who has been receiving speech-language services during the school
year and have not been contacted by your district regarding the status of your child’s special
services, contact your district’s Office of Special Services immediately to find out what
provisions are being made for your child, including the possibility of teletherapy. While the
states have a clear responsibility to provide continued services to student with special needs
under IDEA, according to ASHA, “a school’s ability to offer telepractice services depends on
state regulations of telepractice for speech and language treatment, local school district policies,
technology capabilities of both the school district and family, and a variety of other factors
outside the control of parents and speech-language pathologists (SLPs).”
What if your child is unable to receive teletherapy, or what if you or your child’s SLP does
not think your child would not benefit from receiving services virtually?
For many children, telepractice offers equal benefits to therapy delivered in person. However, for
other children, it may not be appropriate to receive therapy in this way depending on the
individual child, their specific condition, and their strengths and weaknesses. If this is the case
for your child, voice your concerns to the district and ask what other provisions can be made for
your child, including the make-up for time lost once traditional therapy services can be resumed.
If your district has not approved of teletherapy, also ask how make-up services will be provided.
I suspect my child has a communication disorder. How can I get my child evaluated when
schools and clinics are closed for in-person services?
Many clinical and education assessments, including those for speech and language, are available
in digital format and can be administered remotely. However, the evaluation process is being
handled differently from state to state, and even from district to district. Some districts are
choosing to hold off on all evaluations until the new school year, when tests can be conducted in
the traditional manner. Others have been allowing on-line assessment in certain circumstances
utilizing approved tests. Contact your district to determine whether they are conducting speech-
language evaluations in this way. If they are not, let them know that you want your child to be on
a list to be evaluated as soon as traditional testing can be resumed
.During these challenging times, where can I find additional resources that will help me
navigate the process of getting my child services to best support communication, growth, and development?
There are many resources available to parents on-line, including those on the ASHA website.
Throughout this month of May, ASHA will distribute resources for parents and service
providers on more than a dozen focus areas in honor of their Better Speech and Hearing
campaign. For more information and to view available resources, visit www.asha.org/bhsm.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in school closings throughout the world, and school
administrators have been challenged to find alternatives that will meet the needs of their students……”
Debbie Chalifoux: Speech Language Pathologist
Debbie is a licensed and certified Speech-Language Pathologist with Master’s Degrees in both Communication Disorders and Elementary Education. Debbie has over 17 years of experience providing speech-language therapy to preschoolers in a variety of settings and populations, including students with special needs, and in performing speech-language evaluations for both preschool and school-age children. , it is Debbie’s desire to work “wholistically” with families to promote optimal wellness for the “whole” child and the “whole” parent: in mind, in body and in spirit.