Thanks to a new external affiliation at Elmhurst College, graduate students in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program are providing speech language therapy to families who live hundreds of miles away and otherwise would not have had access to the services.
The partnership with Pearson Online & Blended Learning began in the fall of 2017 with two graduate students, but has been so successful that the Elmhurst Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic is continuing the program this spring, said Clinic Director Victoria Jay.
“As a training institution, we need to expose students to different technology and types of practices,” Jay said, and telepractice is growing as a way to reach more clients.
Using computer technology in a specially equipped therapy room on campus, graduate student Julia D’Agostini works with a child living in rural Arkansas who does not have local therapy options.
The computer allows a therapist and client to see and hear each other on screen. The student’s supervisor can monitor the session online, sometimes from a third location. Graduate student Susan Reardon said that at first, “I was a little bit afraid of (the technology), but now I love it.”
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association requires a master’s degree and 400 hours of clinical work to be a certified speech-language pathologist. Both undergraduate and graduate CSD students at Elmhurst complete clinical work at the College’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic or at local hospitals, schools and other facilities.
D’Agostini and Reardon said that while it can be more challenging to build rapport with a client through a computer screen, it’s worth it to be able to reach clients wherever they are. Both also said that learning how to use the telepractice equipment will give them additional options in their eventual careers.
“As a speech therapist there are a million things you can do,” Reardon said. “This is just one more.”