Academic journal article The Volta Review

Telepractice Services at Sound Beginnings at Utah State University

Academic journal article The Volta Review

Telepractice Services at Sound Beginnings at Utah State University

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Utah State University Sound Beginnings program originated in 2007 as a laboratory school to serve children with hearing loss from birth to age 6 years old living in Northern Utah. Sound Beginnings offers an interdisciplinary listening and spoken language educational option for families through the following services: toddler and preschool classrooms, individual therapy, home-based early intervention, and onsite pediatric audiology services. Sound Beginnings works closely with community partners including local school districts, early intervention centers, and the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind. In addition to serving children with hearing loss, Sound Beginnings is a practicum site for graduate students at Utah State University in speechlanguage pathology, audiology, and deaf education who are enrolled in the listening and spoken language personnel preparation program.

In 2007, the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing (JCIH) made recommendations and guidelines for best practices for early intervention services for children with hearing loss. The position statement (JCIH, 2007) highlights the need for families to have access to high-quality intervention services from highly-skilled professionals and that these services should be available to families regardless of geographic location. Because some families in Utah live in remote, rural areas, access to consistent early intervention services can be a challenge. Additionally, access to providers who are highly skilled in a particular communication option can also be a challenge, either due to travel or limited specialization of the professionals in a specific region. Because of the desire to provide the highest quality services to all families, Sound Beginnings began to explore the use of distance technologies as an alternative service delivery model.

Sound Beginnings first provided early intervention services using distance technologies in 2007 with the assistance of a Utah State University Seed Program to Advance Research Collaborations (SPARC) grant. This grant funded the purchase of hardware and support staff to pilot the provision of telepractice services to two families. To provide an optimal experience, it was a priority to use a reliable system with high quality audio and video capabilities. Based on a comparison of the available options, cameras with built-in microphones and Tandberg voice-over-Internet protocol (VOIP) systems were purchased with the SPARC grant funds. Training was obtained from providers at the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) in Australia, where distance technologies had been used for several years. Additionally, Sound Beginnings developed tools to support delivery of high-quality services.

Telepractice Technologies

Sound Beginnings is currently providing telepractice services using Tandberg equipment or Skype. While the Tandberg equipment offers some advantages (e.g., stability of signal, security of Internet connection, and recording ease), the primary disadvantage is the cost of the equipment (between $4000-$15,000). The cost involved with purchasing this type of equipment significantly reduces the number of families and providers that can feasibly use a telepractice model. In 2011, Sound Beginnings participated in the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM) telepractice learning community (see Behl, Houston, & Stredler-Brown, 2012, in this issue). At this time, different types of equipment were sampled. With acceptable bandwidth (approximately two megabits and over), Skype was found to have relatively stable auditory and visual signals for little to no cost.

Telepractice Sessions

Several important issues must be considered before initiation of telepractice sessions. The first is selecting families that are candidates for telepractice. Sound Beginnings carefully considers families based on multiple factors, including interest, the distance of their home from the center, and scheduling preferences. …

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