10 Tips for Completing Speech and Language Assessments Via Telepractice
For many Speech-Language Pathologists starting on their teletherapy journey, performing an assessment via telepractice is the 8th wonder of the world.
Can you use standardized assessments in teletherapy? But.... how?
I remember how foreign it seemed to me at first. But evaluating via teletherapy is totally doable. You may even happily say, "See ya later!" to that well-loved stimulus book and "Hellooooo" to a much lighter (and cleaner) digital one.
So let's dive into 10 tidbits to help demystify the world of telepractice assessment!
1. Don’t get stuck in the mindset that assessment = standardized test. Depending on your state’s eligibility criteria or client’s insurance requirements, you may be able to utilize multiple methods of assessment to determine the student’s communication abilities. In fact, you should! Remember that you can also use observation, a language sample, parent or teacher questionnaires, student interviews, work samples, case history, checklists, and rubrics to get the information you need.
2. If you plan to use a standardized assessment, check publisher websites and familiarize yourself with which assessments have a digital format. The three main publishers are Pearson, Western Psychological Services (WPS), and Pro-Ed. and some of them have offered free webinars on this topic.
3. Whatever assessment you select, you may have given it a thousand times face to face, but administering via teletherapy is a whole new ballgame. Prior to the testing session, practice navigating the digital stimuli, screen sharing, and how you’ll access the verbal prompts that you'll be reading during the assessment.
4. Also before the evaluation, set up a time to meet with the person (parent, caregiver, staff member, etc) that will be facilitating the evaluation on the student’s side. Provide guidance on the technology, facilitator responsibilities, and clearly outline the requirement that the facilitator may not assist with giving or relaying answers in any way.
5. It’s evaluation time! When the student logs in, ensure that you and the student can hear and see each other well. There should be minimal to no background noise, a consistent audio and video feed, and a clearly lit and close view of the student.
6. In order to optimally hear each other, wear a headset and ensure the student is wearing one as well.
7. For tasks that require you to capture a pointing response from the student, here are a few ways to do so:
Grant remote mouse control to the student to see where he/she points.
For response choices that have corresponding letters or numbers, ask the child to name the letter/number rather than point.
Have the child/facilitator set up another camera that only captures the child's computer screen so that you can see where they point.
8. In your report, include specific and detailed information about how the assessment was administered. Just as you would for a face-to-face evaluation, describe the student’s attention, behavior, etc. Be sure to also include statements about the quality of the audio and video and any deviations from standardized procedures.
9. Here’s the burning question that maybe led you to read this post in the first place. Can you report the scores of a standardized assessment administered via teletherapy?
First, determine if there is sufficient evidence of equivalence to support use of normative data. Evidence of what, you say? Basically, some publishing companies may provide research to show that the types of tasks in the assessment yield the same result (within a statistically insignificant margin) whether they are given via telepractice or face to face. Not all assessments have this information, but the publisher websites can guide you.
Next, use your clinical judgment to determine if there are any other factors that do not support the use of normative data. Some of these factors are the same as you'd consider in a face-to-face assessment, such as the student's attention to the assessment, response time, and any other behavioral observations. You should also consider how much you may have deviated from the standardized procedures, such as by repeating questions or providing any cues. Other factors are specific to a telepractice administration, such as the quality of the audio and video signals.
10. And lastly, do not include a blanket statement in the report that says something like, "Scores should be interpreted with caution." These statements are not helpful to people reading the report. As the SLP administering the test, you are the expert that was there. You experienced the testing session and have the clinical skills to interpret factors and determine if the norms can be interpreted. Don't forget to be specific in providing the reasoning why or why not (such as those mentioned in #9 above).
So, are you feeling better about all this? SLPs have been successfully completing assessments via telepractice for years (dare I say decades?) and you can too! Hopefully, you're able to confidently realize your potential by seeking out resources (keep reading!) and using that clinical judgment..... you've earned it!
Here are a few helpful websites to continue your learning on the topic:
ASHA Leader Live article: Conducting Student Speech-Language Assessments via Telepractice
ASHA website: Considerations for Speech, Language, and Cognitive Assessment via Telepractice