From the President: The Power of Early Identification An ASHA toolkit can help you educate the public about the critical role of early screening in effective intervention. From the President
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From the President  |   February 01, 2014
From the President: The Power of Early Identification
Author Notes
  • Elizabeth McCrea, PhD, CCC-SLP, is a clinical professor emerita of the Department of Speech and Language Sciences at Indiana University. She continues her work in clinical education with the externship program at Nova Southeastern University. ·mccreae@indiana.edu
    Elizabeth McCrea, PhD, CCC-SLP, is a clinical professor emerita of the Department of Speech and Language Sciences at Indiana University. She continues her work in clinical education with the externship program at Nova Southeastern University. ·mccreae@indiana.edu×
Article Information
Special Populations / Early Identification & Intervention / ASHA News & Member Stories / From the President
From the President   |   February 01, 2014
From the President: The Power of Early Identification
The ASHA Leader, February 2014, Vol. 19, 8-9. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.19022014.8
The ASHA Leader, February 2014, Vol. 19, 8-9. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.19022014.8
As a discipline and across both professions, we have known for a long time about the importance of early intervention. However, early and effective intervention depends on early and effective identification. We know that the earlier we can identify and support the communication needs of clients and patients, the more they will be able to access and engage with their environment in ways that are meaningful and productive for them.
We also know that:
  • The earlier we can support the linguistic needs of school-age children, the greater the likelihood of their success in the curriculum.

  • The earlier hearing loss is identified, the earlier it can be managed to support communication and social interaction.

  • The earlier balance issues are identified and managed, the less likely the patient is to fall and suffer physical consequences.

  • The earlier swallowing difficulties are defined, the less likely a patient is to suffer medical consequences from a deficient swallow.

Although these individual instances of early identification (and intervention) are important for us as audiologists and speech-language pathologists, they are even more important for patients/clients and their families. The more aware they can become about the early warning signs of compromised communication, balance and swallowing—and the implications of those deficits for other aspects of human functioning—the more likely they are to seek early assessment and subsequent treatment if it is indicated.
And, the earlier identification, assessment and treatment are sought, the greater the likelihood of positive outcomes for patients/clients and their families. To be even more pragmatic, the earlier communication deficits can be addressed in the context of function, the less the cost of intervention is likely to be for patients and clients, their families, and the health care and educational systems.
Educating the public about the behavioral indicators of communication deficits is one of the primary responsibilities of the professions; it is important to engage constantly in such education, in addition to our concentrated efforts in May, which is Better Hearing and Speech Month. My plea is that we engage in public awareness and education activities all year long to facilitate both early identification and intervention.
ASHA is here to help! Last fall we launched Identify the Signs—a multimedia, multilingual website to facilitate public awareness and to support audiologists and SLPs in their public education activities. Not only does the website identify early indicators of potential communication difficulties across the life span, but it also contains a toolkit of attractive downloadable materials, including a banner, flyers, sample letters and sample public service announcements, along with suggestions for how to use these materials.
Have a look! You will be pleased to use and disseminate them. The website also references and contains links to research publications that document the efficacy of early identification and intervention. It also links viewers to ASHA’s online professional lookup service, ProSearch, if they want to contact an audiologist or SLP in follow-up to their communication concerns.
Identify the Signs also suggests ways to share the materials, which gets at the “how to reach the hard to reach” portion of our work (see “Catching Underserved Kids Early—With Remote Screening,” p. 48). Many who might benefit the most from this information may not have access to it because they do not have (or may find it challenging to use) the necessary technology. For this population, we have to think outside the box and, for example:
  • Collaborate with social service agencies, emergency rooms, health care systems and physicians’ offices.

  • Send letters home from school with children about their younger siblings.

  • Work more intensively and in different ways with rehabilitation and nursing staff in transitional and long-term care facilities.

  • Collaborate with educational staff in daycare and early childhood centers.

These activities may require some time that may not be directly referenced in our job descriptions, but they will certainly bring added visibility to us as individual professionals and, collectively, to the professions. And most important, they will demonstrate our value-added to the challenge of meeting the health and wellness needs of the children and adults with communication challenges and their families in our communities.
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February 2014
Volume 19, Issue 2