Children who are deaf or hard of hearing are at high risk for permanent speech and language delays. Early intervention services can help prevent these delays, but the services that a child gets, and how much they help, are highly variable depending on a number of factors: what language is spoken in the home, the family’s insurance situation, the family’s income level, and how easily the family can access the specialized speech-language therapy their child needs. Our group is interested in learning how these disparities in access, language, and income affect the hearing, speech, and language development of children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
One way that people with special healthcare needs can get better access to specialized services is teletherapy—providing therapy over a remote computer connection. We are studying whether teletherapy can connect families, especially those from low-income households who may have trouble accessing specialized speech-language therapy, to remote providers with the expertise that their child needs, and thereby improve their child’s outcomes. Parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing told our team that their top priority is to learn better ways to support their child’s speech and language development. They were very interested in the possibility that teletherapy could do this, especially for families in need. These parents, as well as many other stakeholders who participate in the care of children who are deaf or hard of hearing (e.g., teachers, speech-language therapists, hearing specialists, administrators of schools for deaf children) will work closely with our team to design this study so that we may best address their concerns and collaborate to improve our system of care for these children.