Speech-Language Pathology develops outreach for children, families during COVID-19 closures
JOHNSON CITY – The COVID-19 closures and quarantines have disrupted lives across the Appalachian Highlands. However, a group of faculty and students in East Tennessee State University’s Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology have created an outreach program that will continue to help children and families who are dealing with communication disorders.
ETSU Health’s Nave Speech and Language Clinics closed on March 19 and will remained closed through April 10, pending Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local and federal advisories. These closures meant an interruption of care for more than 80 children and their families who are served by these clinics, as well as a disruption in hands-on education for the graduate students who receive their clinical training at the clinics.
“We did not want to lose our face-to-face interaction with our families who rely on our services, so we developed a way to remain connected virtually, not only with the families we already serve, but also as an outreach to the entire community,” said Dr. Teresa Boggs, director of clinical services for ETSU speech-language pathology (SLP). “We came up with three ways to engage our graduate students with families and try to continue supporting them during this time.”
The three-pronged outreach initiative consists of the following new programs:
- Family Outreach: This program will provide supportive materials and resources for families whose SLP
services have been disrupted due to COVID-19. Through this initiative, graduate students,
in conjunction with ETSU clinical educators, are identifying one to two goals from
clients’ current treatment and creating activities that can be implemented in the
child’s home setting. “Through this effort, the students are learning essential skills
for developing home programs, while families can help their children maintain skills
already gained in traditional therapy,” Boggs said.
- SLP Connect: This program was also developed to address the needs of young children whose speech
and language services may be interrupted due to COVID-19. SLP graduate students are
working with parents (via Zoom) to help the parent choose an appropriate new toy,
book and/or game to use with their child to improve the child’s speech, language and
social skills. With funds donated by ETSU’s chapter of the National Student Speech
Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA), the toy, along with detailed instruction for
the families, is delivered to the child’s home. The goal is to provide approximately
50 children with a toy and learning guide. To learn more about SLP Connect, contact
Boggs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Social Media Outreach Program: SLP graduate students are developing three- to five-minute videos to be shared via Facebook for children with communication challenges and their families. This outreach is to serve children and families beyond those currently receiving therapies within the ETSU Nave Speech and Language Clinics. Topics will include how to address changes in a child’s daily routine, how to build language during home activities, how books can enhance speech development and ways to use the internet successfully. Child-focused activities will include shared book reading, backyard scavenger hunts, cooking and language, sensory games to improve attention and more. The social media outreach is available on the ETSU Nave Speech and Language Center Facebook page.
ETSU’s SLP graduate students have already begun work on these initiatives and are excited about the opportunities to continue working with families despite the circumstances.
Morgan Smith, a second-year SLP graduate student, has been busy researching games, activities and toys for the SLP Connect initiative.
“As speech-language pathology graduate students, this time of national uncertainty has given us an opportunity to help our families in a way that we’ve never been able to do before, and that is why we have created the outreach program,” Smith said. “This program has been designed to assist not only our own clients and families within ETSU, but also families in other communities. Now more than ever, the entire ETSU SLP department is devoted to working to support our community, and the communities around us.”
Olivia Page, another second-year SLP graduate student, agreed that the new programs have been a silver lining during otherwise uncertain and unexpected circumstances.
“Adjust and adapt – these are words speech-language pathologists know all too well,” Page said. “The community outreach that our program is participating in is vital for the families we serve. The beauty of this outreach program is keeping the clinicians and families connected. We want our families to know they are not alone. In the situation we are all facing right now, we will overcome, adjust and adapt.”
To learn more about ETSU’s speech and hearing clinics, visit www.etsu.edu/crhs/aslp/center/default.php. To benefit from the social media outreach program for the community, follow ETSU
Nave Speech and Language Center on Facebook.