I’m finally back from this year’s ASHA convention for Speech and Language Pathologists. Some nuggets of language learning interest included these:
Marc Fey and Ronald Gillam presented on phases of clinical research in language intervention. These phases were pre-trial (can a treatment possibly work?), feasibility (maybe), early efficacy (possibly), later efficacy (probably), and effectiveness (yes, but how much?). The gist was that good research goes in this order. Not going in this order can be dangerous. Don’t do effectiveness studies before efficacy studies.
Kerry Ebert and Kathryn Kohnert dicussed the often underated importance of the clinician in treatment effectiveness. Studies in psychotherapy have found that clinicians can be more important than even medication in determining treatment outcome, but SLP studies rarely consider the therapist.
Tammie Spaulding reported on her work that pretty much all language tests lack both sensitivity and specificity. Sensitivity is when a test accurately identifies a kid that’s language disabled. Specificity is when a test accurately shows a kid as not being language disabled.
Teresa Ukrainetz and et. al. asked “How Much is Enough?” while discussing how much therapy clinicians should be giving. There was a lot of info in this one, such as intervention gains seem better in the first four months than the second, Head Start is effective, teaching vocabulary using context and definitions works better than only context or definitions, and the optimal range for most effective treatment dosage may be between 4 and 12 weeks.
Middendord and Buringrud discussed the SLP role in selective mutism. While counseling should typically be a large component, the presentation described a possible progression of therapy that can go from gestures to whispering to vocalizing nonsense words to vocalizing with soft voice and finally vocalization with full voice.
A group of presenters from the New England Center for Children described their program of incidental teaching in autism. They teach strategies to people that work with autistic individuals. In this program, incidental teaching is contrasted with discrete trial teaching, or ABA-type therapy, although both teaching types can be used depending on a student’s needs. Because many autistic (and other children with early developing communication) lack the desire to communicate, incidental teaching can be extremely effective, especially considering that a strict adherence to ABA therapy may actually suppress this desire. In other words, one size does not fit all.