Woman on telehealth callCOVID-19 has thrown service providers more curveballs than Sandy Koufax – or for the younger folk – Andy Pettitte. Many of us SLPs had to abruptly (and maybe uncomfortably) shift from face-to-face to telepractice as a service delivery model. Thankfully, today’s technology offers a work-around. 

ASHA’s practice portal on telepractice states, “Assessment and therapy procedures and materials may need to be modified or adapted to accommodate the lack of physical contact with the client. These modifications should be reflected in the interpretation and documentation of the service.” Guess what folks? You might not want to hear this, but LSA fits the bill perfectly! And, yeah, I’m biased. But it’s hard to deny that it is one of the most flexible, comprehensive, valid, and reliable tools for assessment of oral language.

The standard, in-person methods of LSA are easily adaptable for telepractice and are an excellent option: 

  1. Record a sample using your preferred online platform or use a phone or digital recorder. 
  2. Transcribe the sample (or send to SALT Services and we’ll do that for you). 
  3. Run the analyses in SALT.
  4. Copy and paste outcomes into your report. 

Voila! 

Wait, there’s more! SALT has recently launched our Online Story Elicitation program. We think this will make it even easier for you to collect a language sample. It was originally designed with telepractice in mind. And then, well, COVID-19 happened. And, at present, we’re all telepractioners. 

We’ve made it as easy as we can: open the program and Eric, an animated SLP, does all the work to elicit and record narrative story retell and unique language samples.

And why, you ask, would I want an animated character to do the elicitation? Isn’t that the easy part, after all? I’m glad you asked. The Online Story Elicitation programs offer some significant advantages. 

  1. Automated and standardized procedures.
    Here’s what’s so great: the instructions and procedures to elicit both retell and unique stories are consistent across examiners and across samples. This increases the reliability of the sampling process. And, if you’re not familiar or comfortable with narrative elicitation, this is the fix. The program limits the examiner’s role, and that means there is less interrupting and overlapping speech in the language sample. And, one of the best outcomes we’ve found is that, when using this program, we do not have to prompt the children as much as we sometimes must when we’re in person. It’s as though “Eric” has the magic touch! Proper prompting isn’t as simple as it seems. It’s so easy to slip into asking closed ended or yes/no questions when we’re not on our A-game.
  2. Elicit in English or Spanish.
    The challenge of providing service to dual language learners (DLLs) is particularly heightened when you are a monolingual (English) speaker. The number of DLLs entering school is continually increasing. We all know the tools available for bilingual Spanish/English assessment are limited, and most were developed for in-person use. There is work to be done in this area for sure. But right now, Eric has you covered. This engaging animated SLP is fluent in both Spanish and English. Yes, we actually have, right now, an assessment method for S/E DLLs that is suited for both online and in-person use. Put LSA to proper use and you’ll be rewarded with a comprehensive oral communication profile of the speakers in your care.
  3. Engaging and comfortable.
    Kids love cartoons! There’s no denying the appeal of animation. Animated characters can be charming, exciting, intriguing, captivating… the list goes on. In a nutshell, they’re entertaining. Kids dig ‘em. And, not all kids are comfortable speaking with adults. Reticent speakers in particular may be more at ease with Eric telling them a story and asking for a story retell in return. And, BONUS, you too get to sit back and be entertained by Eric while he does all the work!
  4. Compatible with copyright laws.
    SALT has agreements with the authors of the books we use which enable us – and you – to use them legally via our program. We pay royalties to the authors so that we can display scanned images of their books. The student gets an immersive experience with nice, high-quality images and fluid page turns; you get more natural language production and the happy feeling that the authors are being fairly compensated for the use of their books.

Our online elicitation programs were a very long and very difficult labor of love. LSA is our passion (probably obvious to anyone reading this) and we’re continually looking for ways to make the procedure easier for SLPs. So, when we had the idea to automate elicitation, we thought, “Let’s do this!” It seemed to us a very achievable goal. How naive we were! In the end we spent countless hours, years actually, with SO MANY hurdles to get this program to completion. There were times when I was so frustrated and disappointed I wanted to quit mid-stream. Thanks to my colleagues, whose optimism, enthusiasm, and work ethic are unparalleled, we made it to the end. So here it is! 

We don’t know what the future looks like for practicing SLPs, but we know language sampling is a great option for online assessment of oral language. We’re here to support anyone who wants to learn more, needs to brush up on the practice, or just needs a little confidence boost to utilize LSA. 

Check out a quick peek at the Online Story Elicitation program on YouTube:

SALT Software: Eliciting a Spanish Sample using the Online Story Elicitation program

And, by the way, if you want a little piece of mind about virtual language sampling, check out this article:

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