The Center for Hearing and Speech: Bilingual Support Services through Videoconferencing Technology

Article excerpt

Many listening and spoken language specialists find themselves serving increasing numbers of children with hearing loss who come from families whose primary language is not English. This manuscript describes a variety of methods that can meet the needs of this ever-growing population by highlighting the dual-language support program at the Center for Hearing and Speech in Houston, Texas. The center uses videoconferencing technology and indirect methods of service delivery through remote consultations to serve this unique population.

Introduction

In Texas, there are three centers that focus exclusively on providing listening and spoken language services for children who are deaf and hard of hearing. The Center for Hearing and Speech (CHS) in Houston is the only private resource that teaches children with mild to profound hearing loss to acquire listening, speaking, and literacy skills. To accomplish this, CHS has a fullservice pediatric audiology clinic, a speech-language pathology clinic, an auditory-oral preschool, and a family support services department. With the aid of advanced hearing technology, for more than 60 years trained practitioners at CHS have worked to develop listening and spoken language skills in thousands of children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Seven years ago, a bilingual support program began at CHS due to a steady increase in the number of families of Hispanic origin who wanted to experience the same benefits of early intervention as their English-speaking counterparts. This was made possible by hiring appropriate bilingual staff and creating written resources in Spanish. Today, about 130 children attend the speechlanguage pathology clinic each week and 50% of them come from families who speak a language other than English.

Texas is a large state with multiple rural areas. Consequently, many children with hearing loss do not have access to specialized therapy services due to the lack of qualified professionals in their community. Advances in interactive video technology have made the use of telepractice a viable solution to connect children who are deaf or hard of hearing with qualified professionals. These professionals can conduct live, interactive therapy sessions irrespective of the location of the family and using the language spoken in the home.

Telepractice has been recognized as an appropriate model of service delivery for the profession of speech-language pathology (American Speech-LanguageHearing Association [ASHA], 2010). Telepractice is the application of telecommunications technology to deliver professional services at a distance by linking clinician to client or clinician to clinician for assessment, intervention, and/or consultation (ASHA, 2010). Using telepractice to provide speech and language services maintains all existing responsibilities of delivery that adhere to the policies and professional practices of ASHA. Telepractice procedures must also adhere to state and federal laws (ASHA, 2010).

Remote support for linguistically diverse families began at CHS in 2009. The bilingual speech telepractice program at CHS uses real-time, two-way interactive videoconferencing equipment and software to deliver speech therapy services from a distance. The speech-language pathologist is virtually present at the receiving end where the family lives, but provides therapy from a different location using computer technology. Physical distance separates the practitioner and family, but video connects them.

This article describes CHS's solution for an ever-growing population of children with hearing loss in Texas who live in homes where the primary language is not English and who live in areas removed from professionals qualified to provide listening and spoken language services. To help the reader understand the CHS approach to providing bilingual telepractice services, a description of the bilingual support program, a discussion on the use of vidéoconférence technology, and indirect methods of service delivery (i. …