A Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) at Sophia University, Bulgaria has published findings of an online survey of SLP clinicians regarding their experiences with teletherapy since March 13, 2020, when the European Union declared a COVID-19 emergency and mandated use of distance communication technologies by SLPs in the delivery of services wherever possible. The goals of the survey were to determine – in these emergency conditions – who in Bulgaria was providing telepractice services, which disorders were being served, in what numbers, and with what perceived degrees of success and satisfaction.

Using Google Forms, a questionnaire containing ten items was composed and distributed through social networks, professional platforms, and email to members of Bulgaria’s speech pathology community. Criteria for inclusion of responses in final data analysis were: [1] exclusive use of telepractice for clinical service delivery; and [2] absence of direct contact with recipient clients for at least five weeks. Of the 189 responses received, 105 qualified for analysis. Primary reasons for exclusion were absence of direct contact for too short a time, or mixing telepractice with face-to-face service delivery via in-home visits. To analyze results, descriptive statistics and content analysis were used.

Of the 105 qualifying respondents, 91.4% were women, 8.6% men. Most (83.2%) had been in practice less than 20 years. Prior to the mandate, they had been serving 2,766 individuals, while after the mandate that number dropped to 1,253 (-54.7%). Zoom, Skype and Facetime were the technologies being used. Clients with articulation disorders comprised the largest group of clients (83.8%); for them, clinicians adjudged service delivery to be very effective in 80.9% of cases. Persons with developmental language disorders represented 76.2% of clients; their service delivery was adjudged very effective in 72.2% of cases. But the researchers found that clinicians were enjoying success in a majority of clinical cases in only four of the seventeen (23.5%) conditions probed – namely, the two adduced above plus dyslexia and stuttering. In the remaining 86.5% of conditions – including autism spectrum disorders, general learning disability, and alexia/agraphia among others – percentage success rates as well as absolute numbers of clients served were noticeably low. This may be a function of relying on commercial products designed for general communication use as opposed to purpose-developed rehabilitation technologies. Research is needed to tell.

For further reading:  E. Boyadzhieva-Deleva, 2020. Speech and language therapy in state of emergency: Advantages and disadvantages of teletherapy.  Knowledge – International Journal, 40(4): 681–686.  (In Bulgarian.)  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343858911

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