Celebrating Better Speech and Hearing Month
By Dana Hall, M.A., CCC-SLP, Senior Speech Language Pathologist
A year ago Jennifer Jacobs, M.S. CCC-SLP and I took on a professional development project, which involved consulting with a nationally renowned augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) specialist, Linda Burkhart, to strengthen our AAC clinic and our skills as trainers, coaches, presenters, and consultants.
With Ms. Burkhart states away, we embarked on a virtual consultative model. In the past, P.G. Chambers School has worked with experts in different areas of specialized education; however, never before had we done it virtually. What would that look like? How would that work? Little did we know that these virtual consultations would be a preview into what our new normal in teaching, communicating, and connecting would be in the year ahead.
While we had questions, we also realized that using an online platform would enable us to connect regularly with our consultant, enhance our skills as speech therapists, and provide P.G. Chambers School teams, including students, educators, therapists, and families, the opportunity to collaborate and support the communication goals of our students and families.
At the time, I don’t think we could have imagined that an on-line virtual platform would become our new normal. Today P. G. Chambers School is maximizing the use of the virtual resources to provide academics, therapy services, physical education, music, library, and perhaps most importantly, social connections for our students. In addition, our P.G. Chambers School families are using it to more regularly to connect with their child’s team, including their speech therapists.
With this new platform, our families have access to their child’s team, including their speech therapist, in a time when they might otherwise be cut off from that service. The sessions with Ms. Burkhart strengthened our ability to:
Provide real time coaching to families,
Implement communication supports such as high tech devices or low-tech communication books virtually,
Model communication strategies for family members in real time,
And interact in natural ways despite being on a screen.
Our biggest take away is that despite the current circumstances, we are better able to support communication skills and help families connect with their children.
As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” We feel fortunate to not only have the technology to reach our students from where they are, but thanks to the ongoing training with Linda Burkhart, we also have the skills to continue providing effective therapy in a virtual setting. By sharing what we have learned with our colleagues, we have all been able to put these new skills to excellent use particularly over the last several months to support our students and families.