Outcome Measures in Speech Therapy
As the year marches on, IEPs come due and quarterly reports are nearing. I started asking myself how can I better understand the outcomes and data of the children I serve? I came across a study by Jacoby, et al. (2002) and liked how they determined outcomes using a functional communication measure.
The purpose of the study was to investigate the number of therapy sessions needed to facilitate functional communication improvements when delivering services to children from three to six years old with identified speech and/or language disorder(s). One research question asked if the number of treatment units necessary to improve functional communication were affected by age of the child. The answer was yes. Younger children required fewer sessions to demonstrate improvement. For instance, a 3 year old child averaged 95 treatment units (15 min units) to improve 1 level, while a 6 year old required 139 units to improve 1 functional level.
While the data seems a bit obvious because of how the brain changes with age, I also didn’t think to consider the number of times I get to see my kiddos. I’m realizing how often a quarter of a year can pass by and I don’t get to see the kids the allotted time laid out in their IEPs. Field trips, testing, holidays, sickness, and professional development; these factors play into how much I can change the functional communication of a child. As I prepare IEPs and quarterly report cards, I need to address or at least mention how often or not often I got to see the child. If I only saw a child 3 times instead of 6 yet they made improvement, what does that data suggest? What if I saw a child 6 times instead of 4 times in previous quarters, yet they made little to no improvement? Are the interventions working or is it the time I’ve seen them?
I love to question myself, my approaches, techniques. Data makes me problem solve, think critically about what I’m doing, and re-evaluate if it’s not working. When a report card allows for checking “making adequate progress” vs. “minimal progress”…what am I doing or not doing that I can change to make more progress next time.
This isn’t a game…it’s communication. I’m laying a foundation for a child’s future outcomes. So when I measure how well a child is doing, I want to make sure it matches up with how well they are functionally communicating. With so many variables impacting my sessions, this is just one measure to help analyze where a child is on the communication spectrum. There are so many ways to keep track, but just thought this one was an interesting perspective.
Jacoby, G. P., Lee, L., Kummer, A. W., Levin, L., & Creaghead, N. A. (2002). The number of individual treatment units necessary to facilitate functional communication improvements in the speech and language of young children. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 11, 370-380. [Abstract here]
Mullen, R. & Schooling, T. (2010). The national outcomes measurement system for pediatric speech-language pathology. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 41, 44-60. [Abstract here]