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Current Literacy Services for Students With Complex Communication Needs

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					                       Literacy Services for Students with
                        Complex Communication Needs:

                                                  A Pilot Survey Study



       Karen A. Fallon+, Lauren A. Katz#, & Laura Gaines+

Presented at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention
                             November 2006
                                    +Towson University, Towson, MD
                  Department. of Audiology, Speech-Language Pathology, and Deaf Studies

                         #Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH
                  Department of Communication Disorders, Bowling Green State University
                        Abstract
This pilot study investigated the literacy services provided by school-
based speech-language pathologists (SLPs) who work with students
who have complex communication needs, (i.e., students who require
augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)). The purpose
of the study was to gather initial data pertaining to the knowledge,
preparedness, attitudes, and practices of SLPs to address the
written language needs of students who require AAC. Preliminary
results of a survey of 8 pilot participants suggested that SLPs
demonstrated positive attitudes towards the provision of written
language services. They also perceived themselves as
knowledgeable and prepared to teach literacy skills to students who
use AAC. However, actual practice was reportedly limited with time
limitations cited as the greatest barrier to service provision.
Background
   Literacy skills are of tremendous importance for all children in today’s society. The
    ability to acquire reading and writing skills is critical to academic success, determines
    the higher education and/or vocational opportunities that will be available to an
    individual with complex communication needs.

   Research suggests that students who require AAC often receive inadequate amounts
    of literacy instruction (Koppenhaver & Yoder, 1993) and overall, tend to demonstrate
    weaker literacy skills than their same-age peers (Foley & Pollatsek, 1999).

   ASHA has identified written language assessment and written language intervention
    for students with multiple and severe disabilities as areas within the scope of practice
    for speech-language pathologists (ASHA, 2001).

   A recent caseload survey suggests that school-based speech-language pathologists
    are not successfully implementing written language goals and activities into their
    service provision (Janota, 2004).

   The current project addresses the discrepancy between ASHA guidelines and current
    clinical practice by surveying speech language pathologists currently working with
    students who require AAC.
Research Questions
   1. How knowledgeable or prepared do school-based SLPs feel about
    assessment and intervention practices in the area of written language with
    students who require AAC?

   2. What are the attitudes of school-based SLPs toward working with
    struggling readers and writers who require AAC?

   3. What literacy practices are used by school-based SLPs in working with
    struggling readers and writers who require AAC?

   4. To what extent do school-based SLPs provide written language
    intervention in classrooms and collaborate with teachers in working with
    struggling readers and writers who require AAC?

   5. What do school-based SLPs see as factors that impede and facilitate
    their written language service provision to students who require AAC?
Method
Participants
   8 public school-based SLPs from rural, suburban, and urban schools in
    Ohio, Maryland, Michigan, and Pennsylvania
    2 in preschools, 5 in elementary schools, 6 in middle schools, & 3 in high
    schools (*some participants reported more than one work setting).
   Surveys distributed to 12 school-based SLPs. Eight were returned for a
    response rate of 66%.

                                N   Minimum   Maximum   Mean    Standard
                                                                Deviation
      Age                       8   27        72        45.9    15.08
      Years in Practice         8   2         31        16.4    12.1
      Caseload Size             8   22        77        44.6    16.7
      % caseload with written   7   0         90        47.67   31.1
      language needs
      % caseload receiving      8   0         67        27.97   28.46
      written language
      services
Method (con’t)
Surveys
 Surveys contained a variety of question types:
      1) fill-in-the-blank items
      2) Likert scale questions
      3) check-list and yes/no response items
      4) two open-ended questions.


Data Analysis
   Descriptive statistics were employed to explore responses to research
    questions.
   Open-ended questions were analyzed qualitatively for themes.
Knowledge and Preparation
   Participants were asked to rate their knowledge and
    preparedness to provide reading and writing services to
    students who require AAC. Results are as follows:

       The majority of participants felt that they had the expertise to help
        struggling readers and writers who require AAC (67%).

        Most of the SLPs felt that they had the expertise to teach skills in the
        areas of phonemic awareness (67%) and reading comprehension (87%)
        to students who require AAC.

       Participants felt less prepared to provide instruction in the areas of
        spelling (33%) and expository writing ( 33%) to struggling readers and
        writers who use AAC.
Attitudes About Written Language Practices
with Students Who Require AAC (n=8)

   Overall, the SLPs in our sample reported very positive attitudes
    about practicing in the area of written language.

   The majority of the SLPs (83%) believed that it was within their
    scope of practice to provide written language services to students
    who use AAC.

   All of SLPs indicated a willingness to work on written language goals
    with students who use AAC.

   All SLPs reported a willingness to participate in continuing education
    in literacy.
Written Language Practices Used with
Students Who Require AAC
   Participants were asked to identify from a list, those written
    language assessment and intervention practices that they had
    used with students in the past year. Results are as follows:

       SLPs reported that they implemented a limited range diagnostic and
        intervention practices overall in the areas of phonemic awareness,
        phonics, vocabulary development, reading comprehension spelling,
        narrative writing, and expository writing.

       Of all of the practices listed, on average, those targeting phonemic
        awareness were most often reported as used. Vocabulary and reading
        comprehension practices were second most frequently reported.

       Of all of the practices listed, on average, those targeting spelling,
        phonics, and writing were least often reported as used.
Participant Literacy Training
   87% of participants reported that they had received some form of
    written language training.

   For those who had received written language training, continuing
    education training was the most frequently reported (100% of
    participants).

   Self-Teaching activities such as journal articles and books, were
    second most frequently reported (85% of participants)

   Literacy training as part of a Masters degree or post-graduate
    degree training was the least often reported (28% of participants for
    each)
Barriers and Facilitators
   SLPs were asked to list factors that they felt were either
    barriers or facilitators to written language service provision in
    the schools. Results are as follows:

       The most frequently reported barrier to written language service
        provision was lack of time and educators who are unfamiliar with the
        SLPs role and expertise.

       The most frequently reported facilitators were collaboration and
        grouping of students on the SLPs caseload.
Discussion
   Overall, participants reported positive attitudes towards addressing written
    language needs of students who require AAC.

   SLPs who completed the survey indicated that they had participated in a
    variety of training activities to improve their skills and knowledge of written
    language instruction.

   Participants favorably rated their own knowledge of and preparedness to
    provide written language services to students who require AAC.

   However, despite positive attitudes and reports of preparedness to address
    literacy needs, the surveys indicated that the SLPs were actually providing
    very few written language services to students who use AAC.

   Barriers to service provision included lack of time, lack of resources, and
    uninformed educators. Facilitators included collaborative practices and
    clustering of students on caseloads.
Limitations & Next Steps
   This small pilot study was conducted to gather initial data that will be
    used to revise a survey for a large-scale study to explore barriers
    and facilitators to provision of written language services to students
    who use AAC by SLPs in public schools.

   Though the sample was limited in size, we gathered enough
    responses to make modifications to the initial survey draft.

   Modifications to the survey will include:
      a.) revisions to the practices section
      b.) use of data from open-ended questions to ask more targeted questions about
       barriers and facilitators
      c.) the inclusion of more specific questions about challenges of collaboration and
       work in classrooms
      d.) possible use of an on-line survey to facilitate a greater response rate.
References
   American Speech-Language Hearing Association (2001). Roles and
    responsibilities of speech-language pathologists with respect to reading and
    writing in children and adolescents. Rockville, MD: Author.

   Foley, B. & Pollatsek, A. (1999) Phonological processing and reading
    abilities in adolescents and adults with severe congenital speech
    impairments. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 15, (3), 156-
    173.

   Janota, J. (2004). 2004 Schools Survey—Caseload characteristics report.
    American Speech, Language, Hearing Association. Rockville, MD.

   Koppenhaver, D., & Yoder, D. (1993). Classroom literacy instruction for
    children with severe speech and physical impairments (SSPI): What is and
    what might be. Topics in Language Disorders 13 (2), 1-13.
For more information, please
          contact:
  Karen Fallon, Ph.D. CCC-SLP
   Email: kfallon@towson.edu
     Phone: (410) 704-2437

              Or

  Lauren Katz, Ph.D. CCC-SLP
    Email: katzla@bgsu.edu
     Phone: (419) 372-7165

				
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