Interprofessional Pre-screening Shortens the Wait for Autism Diagnoses

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Editor’s Note: In recognition of Autism Awareness Month, we have several posts addressing autism-related issues throughout April. The screening program described here is one of several ASD initiatives at Wichita State University; another that eases children’s visits to the dentist is explored in this month’s April ASHA Leader issue.

 

Recently, I became passionate about expediting identification and diagnosis for young children who show signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This desire was fueled by a research project I conducted with Douglas F. Parham and Jagadeesh Rajagopalan; the results revealed that pediatricians and family physicians have not been screening young children for ASD as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (regularly conducting ASD-specific screenings for children two times prior to their second birthday) in Kansas, Iowa and Oklahoma.

Based on these results, I determined that one way I could help advance the identification of these young children would be to develop an authentic interprofessional education opportunity for students in the allied-health and education programs at my university: Wichita State University in Kansas. In the spring of 2012, WSU students, faculty and community professionals agreed to form the Wichita State University-Community Partners: Autism Interdisciplinary Diagnostic Team (AIDT).

The team aims to:

  1. Educate undergraduate and graduate students to better recognize the characteristics of ASD and to be able to participate in screening, assessment and referral of children who demonstrate early signs.
  2. Provide a highly needed service to children and families throughout south-central Kansas.

Since the initiation of this team, faculty, clinical educators and students from eight departments—communication sciences and disorders (audiology and speech-language pathology), early childhood unified special education, clinical psychology, physical therapy, dental hygiene, physician assistant, nursing and public health—have participated. Additionally, the University of Kansas School of Medicine–Wichita (represented by a developmental pediatrician and an advanced practice registered nurse) has been a valued partner and referral source.

Faculty and clinical educators recruit and select students to participate in our screening program. Student participants must enroll in a field-based experience and/or an appropriate class within their respective programs. All stakeholders then do a one-day training prior to the start of each semester on identifying the characteristics of ASD, to screen, to participate in the assessment process and to identify appropriate referrals for children and families. The educators agree to participate in at least four diagnostic sessions each semester, ensuring that students from various professions have multiple opportunities to work together, while observing interprofessional collaboration among university and community professionals.

The partnering developmental pediatrician and the advanced practice registered nurse refer children and families to the screening program based on the “red flag” characteristics parents report on the pediatrician’s developmental history form. The program’s coordinator (that’s me) contacts the family via phone to gather additional developmental information, and then the team meets to discuss that information and other relevant documents.

The team conducts the evaluation over two days. The first day, we assess the child’s communication, play and cognitive abilities, using selected tools and strategies based on the child’s strengths and needs. The second day, we administer the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2 and the Childhood Autism Rating Scale-Second Edition, Standard Version, to provide the developmental pediatrician with diagnosis-relevant information. We also conduct hearing, motor and oral health screenings. The team then meets to discuss the aggregated assessment results, which, in addition to appropriate recommendations and resources, are shared with the family.

We schedule an appointment for the child and family with the developmental pediatrician approximately one week following our assessment. Someone from our team accompanies the family to the appointment to act as a liaison and assist with the examination.

Since the introduction of the AIDT, 133 students, clinical educators, faculty and community professionals across 10 disciplines have come together via this individualized education program field-based experience. Our students and professionals have assessed 24 young children who present with characteristics of ASD, and approximately 85 percent of these children have received a confirming medical diagnosis.

Participants and families alike gain from this experience. Students learn from, with and among others who are committed to interprofessional practice. Families voice their appreciation for receiving diagnostic information from multiple disciplines all at once, so they don’t have to run from place to place to receive it.

Mostly, they value how quickly the AIDT’s work enables them to get their child needed help.

 

Trisha Self, PhD, CCC-SLP, is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Wichita State University and coordinator of the school’s Community Partners: Autism Interdisciplinary Diagnostic Team. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 1, Language Learning and Education; and 10, Issues in Higher Education.
Trisha.Self@wichita.edu 

New Global Campaign Takes on Noisy Leisure Activities

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Worldwide, the statistics are sobering:

  • 360 million people have disabling hearing loss.
  • 43 million people between the ages of 12–35 years live with disabling hearing loss.
  • Half of all cases of hearing loss are avoidable through primary prevention.

Of course, none of this likely comes as a surprise to ASHA members, particularly audiologists, who are on the front lines of care for people with hearing loss. The good news is that we are going to hear a lot more about this serious health issue with the help of a high-profile group.

Today, on International Ear Care Day, the World Health Organization is elevating the profile of hearing loss—specifically noise-induced hearing loss—by launching a new campaign called Make Listening Safe.

The campaign educates the public about hearing dangers posed by noisy leisure activities and promotes simple prevention strategies. Young people are the focus because an increasing number are experiencing hearing loss. As the creator of the highly successful Listen to Your Buds campaign, WHO asked ASHA experts to advise on Make Listening Safe. A role the association enthusiastically embraced.

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ASHA used Listen to Your Buds to provide an early warning on potential hearing dangers from misuse of personal music players and the need for safe listening. Today, as this technology is nearly ubiquitous, the campaign is going strong on a variety of fronts.

One of ASHA’s most successful ventures is its safe listening concert series. The series educates young children about protecting their ears in a fun, interactive way by bringing innovative musicians and performances to U.S. schools. A new video showcases the most recent concert series, which took place in six Orlando-area schools in conjunction with ASHA’s 2014 convention.

Misuse of personal audio devices is also a key area of focus for Make Listening Safe. According to WHO, among teenagers and young adults aged 12 to 35 years in middle- and high-income countries, nearly 50 percent are exposed to unsafe levels of sound from the use of these devices.

This is one of the new global estimates being released with the launch of Make Listening Safe. In addition to a high-profile unveiling in Geneva, WHO is issuing a variety of materials featuring statistics on the problem’s scope, the hearing loss consequences and action steps that parents, teachers, physicians, managers of noisy venues, manufacturers and governments can take to make listening leisure activities safer.

ASHA asks members to take up the campaign. Here are just a few ideas on how you can get involved:

  • Utilize the WHO’s eye-catching public education materials—including posters, a fact sheet, and an infographic—with peers, patients, friends and loved ones.
  • Engage in grassroots public education, such as sharing statistics and prevention tips on social media or holding a free hearing screening.
  • Approach local media to pitch a story. The campaign’s launch with accompanying statistics is a great news hook. You can tie the story to your local community by highlighting an event your practice is hosting or offer tips for safe listening at local noisy venues (e.g., stadiums, concert venues/clubs). This is also an excellent consumer health story for a television station, particularly because it offers “news you can use” such as easy prevention tips.

The focus on noise-induced hearing loss in young people is not limited to March. While the WHO campaign will be ongoing, ASHA will also poll the public about safe listening practices. Our results will provide more opportunity for outreach during Better Hearing & Speech Month in May and beyond. Stay tuned!

Click here for more information. Questions may be directed to pr@asha.org.

 

Judith L. Page, PhD, CCC-SLP, is ASHA’s new president. She served as program director for Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Kentucky for 17 years and as chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences for 10 years. 

Of Language Barriers, Culture Gaps and e-Bridges

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It certainly isn’t news that our country is becoming increasingly diverse. What may surprise us is that some of the biggest growth is happening in non-border, less-urbanized states. California, Texas and Florida continue to have the most residents who were born in another country. However, Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, North Carolina and Tennessee all saw more than a 70% increase in foreign-born residents between 2000 and 2012.

This means that ASHA members probably find themselves with more and more English-language learners on their caseloads. These audiologists and SLPs likely also live in areas where there may not be many resources for serving ELL students. Our Code of Ethics states that we should provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services. ASHA also acknowledges that the ideal situation for ELL clients is to work with a bilingual service provider with specific language and clinical skills.

Telepractice offers an elegant solution for connecting colleagues with these competencies to our clients that need them.

The versatility of telepractice makes it useful in different settings. A school district might use several Spanish-speaking telepractitioners to manage its entire ELL caseload. A rural health clinic may create a limited agreement with a bilingual audiologist for follow-up care of a patient who communicates in a less-commonly spoken language.

Telepractice can be used for more than intervention. We can assess patients—even formally—through telepractice. Formal assessment via telepractice is getting easier because many well-known tests are now digitized. Even when a certified professional is not available through telepractice, an onsite team can use technology to connect with interpreters and cultural brokers to help provide appropriate services.

Telepractice licensing, however, remains a hurdle for taking advantage of remote services or becoming a telepractitioner. Most states don’t currently have regulations on telepractice for our professions. ASHA and local associations, however, advocate for states to formulate and adapt guidelines permitting telepractice.

In the meantime, associations advise telepractitioners to verify requirements and policies, as well as hold all appropriate credentials, both in the state where we reside and where the client receives services. This applies also to special credentialing for bilingual telepractitioners.

ASHA doesn’t certify bilingual service providers, but it provides guidelines for those who represent themselves as such. For example, we are ethically-bound to ensure that we speak or sign another language with native or near-native proficiency, and possess various clinical competencies.

To my knowledge, only Illinois and New York have a type of credential for bilingual practitioners, and these are specific to professionals working in schools. However, because policy changes frequently (and is difficult to track), SLPs and audiologists should verify any bilingual-specific requirements in states where they might practice before providing services.

Telepractice holds a lot of promise for serving clients with diverse needs. Even when there is some red tape to figure out, using technology to build bridges to communities that may not have many resources is one of my most rewarding professional experiences!

 

Nate Cornish, M.S., CCC-SLP is a bilingual (English/Spanish) SLP and clinical director for VocoVision and Bilingual Therapies.  He is the professional development manager for SIG 18: Telepractice, a member of ASHA’s Multicultural Issues Board, and a past president and vice-president of the Hispanic Caucus.  Cornish provides clinical support to monolingual and bilingual telepractitioners around the country.  He also organizes and presents at various continuing education events, including an annual symposium on bilingualism.  Contact him at nate.cornish@vocovision.com.

An Audiologist’s Experiences at Convention

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I have been an audiologist since December 1982 and joined ASHA in January 1983 obtaining my CCC-A in October 1983. During those 31 plus years I’ve attended 11 ASHA national conventions and with the exception of the 2014 event my typical reason for going was to either see a city that I never saw before or to go to a city with a warm November climate.

Yes, in truth, the warmth was also why I went to Orlando! I prepared to spend many a grueling hour at Disney World and other tourist attractions. However, when I registered, I observed that every day of the convention held multiple interesting courses either directly on audiology or concerning issues related to the changing medical environment. What a blast!! Even at 60, I still believe that to learn is to live!

Keep this up ASHA and you will start to see far more audiologists attending your conferences. I truly believe that if the conventions in the past were like the 2014 convention there would never have been the American Academy of Audiology, Academy of Doctors of Audiology or Audiology Foundation of America organizations. These organizations were created because we audiologists felt disenfranchised.

At this year’s convention I didn’t feel left out and believe in giving the “devil his due.” Good job ASHA, keep it up!

 

James M. O’Day, Au.D., CCC-A, is an audiologist managing the audiology department at Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin, NH. where he has worked for ten years. O’Day works directly with ENTs in both private practice and in hospital settings. He’s owned a private practice for more than 20 years. You can contact him at james.oday@avhnh.org.

#ASHA14 Audiologist in the House

blogI have been attending the national ASHA convention since 2008 in Chicago, but this year is a special first for me–MY FIRST ASHA CONVENTION AS A CERTIFIED DOCTOR OF AUDIOLOGY!!! I started attending ASHA as undergraduate while still trying to determine if I wanted to study audiology or speech-language pathology. As an undergrad, ASHA was a little overwhelming. The graduate school fair and exhibit halls, as well as the many networking events, were greatly beneficial, but as I still didn’t have a concrete plan or field, my choice in sessions was eclectic and I don’t know how much I got out of them.

The next several years I served on the NSSLHA Executive Council as a delegate for Region 8 and then as a representative for Region 3, and even though I was “at convention” I was very busy with meetings and helping run NSSLHA Day and as such, didn’t get to many sessions. The networking has always continued to be phenomenal and I loved being emcee of the NSSLHA Battle of the Regions Knowledge Bowl, but I was missing out on sessions.

Last year, as a fourth year extern who was free of meeting and other responsibilities, I was finally able to attend as a regular attendee and found some great sessions (which after three-and-a-half years of grad school, I could understand), but this year will even top that as I now have a job as an educational audiologist and can search out sessions related to what I do on a daily basis.

I always look forward to continued networking and social events as well as the exhibit hall. I’ll be sure to check out Audiology Row, the opening plenary session and closing party (Where’s my owl with a letter inviting me to Hogwarts?). As I’ve been researching audiology sessions, I selected so many sessions and posters that were of potential interest that I’ve only got two slots that don’t have conflicting sessions. I’m working on whittling the list down, but there are some sessions I feel I need to catch. Management of School‐Age Children With Hearing Loss: From the Clinic to the Classroom (#1019) is one I feel will be particulary relevant. As I’m learning the ropes at my new job (I’m the only educational audiologist in a rural four-county area of Maryland), I’m rapidly discovering that regular follow-up with dispensing/managing audiologists is not something that always happens with my students due to geographic and socio-economic issues. As such, I’m starting to develop relationships with some of the audiologists at the Children’s Hospital a couple hours away where many students were initially fit.

I’m also looking forward to some sessions and posters on APD as working in the school, it is a “hot topic.” Disentangling Central Auditory Processing (CAP) Test Findings: A Road to Greater Clarity (#1110) , Differential Diagnosis & Intervention of Central Auditory Processing Disorders (#1405), and Treatment Efficacy of the Fast ForWord-Reading Program on Language in a Child With SLI/APD (6036 poster #136).

One final session I’m also very excited about is Noise Exposure & Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Among Rural Adolescents (#1492). The area in which I live and work has agriculture and aquaculture as two significant components of the local economy in addition to many recreational opportunities for noise exposure (hunting, shooting, ATVs, boating, etc) and I feel there will be opportunities to work on implementing some hearing conservation education at the high school level for many of the students I serve.

What are some of the sessions you’re looking forward to? See you in Orlando!

Caleb McNiece, AuD, CCC-A, is a new grad and educational audiologist for the Mid-Shore Special Education Consortium which serves four county school systems on Maryland’s eastern shore. Caleb is a former NSSLHA Executive Council member and is passionate about audiology students, audiology advocacy, pediatric audiology, and private practice.