Map-Click Your Way to Evidence-Based Decisions Looking for high-quality evidence to quickly guide your treatment? Just click. Make It Work
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Make It Work  |   January 01, 2018
Map-Click Your Way to Evidence-Based Decisions
Author Notes
  • Sharon VanDyke, MS, CCC-SLP, works as a private practice clinician in Weaverville, North Carolina. She has provided pediatric and adult services in medical and school-based settings. sharon@vandykespeech.com
    Sharon VanDyke, MS, CCC-SLP, works as a private practice clinician in Weaverville, North Carolina. She has provided pediatric and adult services in medical and school-based settings. sharon@vandykespeech.com×
Article Information
Research Issues, Methods & Evidence-Based Practice / Make It Work
Make It Work   |   January 01, 2018
Map-Click Your Way to Evidence-Based Decisions
The ASHA Leader, January 2018, Vol. 23, 36-37. doi:10.1044/leader.MIW.23012018.36
The ASHA Leader, January 2018, Vol. 23, 36-37. doi:10.1044/leader.MIW.23012018.36
I am a speech-language pathologist in private practice in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. My rural setting provides gorgeous mountain views, sweet little roads along babbling creeks, and the kindest patients one could ask for.
Here’s another thing my small town provides: everyone, and everything, speech-pathology–related. Got a kiddo with articulation issues? Send him to me. How about a Parkinson’s patient with reduced volume? Yep, she’s mine, too. Nonverbal client with cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities needing augmentative communication? Sure, I can do that.
And it goes on: a client with aphasia from a stroke, another with cognitive deficits from a traumatic brain injury, a young man with autism with pragmatic language difficulties, a young girl with a frontal lisp. And that’s just this week. I really am the definition of a “generalist”—I have to be, there just aren’t many of us around these parts.
Here’s what I don’t get in this rural setting: easy-to-access exposure to evidence-based research to handle my diverse caseload. If I want exposure to all the big ideas out there in the speech-language pathology world, I must travel to conferences (which is expensive) or go online and search (which takes precious time I don’t always have). Also, I work mostly alone, so connecting with colleagues around me is not an option.
But here’s what I do have: evidence maps, courtesy of ASHA. From my informal survey of my SLP friends, many clinicians don’t know about this valuable resource.

The website allows clinicians to search for evidence on a specific topic to help make informed, research-based decisions in their assessment and treatment of communication disorders.

What they are
So what are evidence maps? They’re an online tool created by ASHA’s National Center for Evidence-Based Practice in Communication Disorders (N-CEP). The website allows clinicians to search for evidence on a specific topic to help make informed, research-based decisions in their assessment and treatment of communication disorders.
You can search on terms that pertain to a relevant clinical question and get a plethora of resources that are relevant to your query. These resources are presented in formats that are quick and easy to digest—invaluable to busy clinicians who do not have time to delve into the deepest layers of available research. N-CEP searches out and vets all guidelines, studies, reviews and other resources, and includes in the evidence map only those that meet the highest standards of quality and rigor.
The maps include three types of evidence:
  • External scientific evidence are evidence-based guidelines and systematic reviews of research conducted in a given area.

  • Consensus-based statements and ASHA policy documents are contained in clinical expertise.

  • Client perspectives provide individual studies, guidelines and systematic reviews related to the perspective of the client and family members.

In addition, the maps provide relevant conclusions and recommendations, evidence ratings, and quality indicator ratings to examine and highlight the quality of recommendations and systematic reviews. They are updated continually to incorporate the most current information.

I am relieved that I don’t have to sort through hundreds of individual studies to find the ones I truly need. ASHA has done that for me.

Examples of mapping
Here’s a recent example of how I used the evidence maps. I was asked to present about brain injury rehabilitation at a conference in Asheville, North Carolina. My primary focus was what people in the chronic stage of traumatic brain injury can do to improve their quality of life, and what we, as rehab professionals, can do to support their long-term cognitive and communication needs.
So, I go to the evidence maps. Up comes the alphabetical listing of the maps. I search “traumatic brain injury.” In a moment, I have 50 articles I scroll through to find what I want to include. I click on “Client Perspectives,” because I want to focus on how clients and their caregivers adapt. I find the most relevant items, and begin reading, taking notes and writing.
Here’s another example. I am getting more referrals for preschoolers with feeding issues, and I need to know the best way to assess and treat them. What are the best practices for assessment and intervention for feeding disorders in the preschool population? I find the pediatric dysphagia evidence map. Up come 97 articles. That’s more than I need—the search is too broad.
I narrow my search using a filter. I choose behavioral feeding disorders and autism spectrum disorder. Both categories give me what I need. I find systematic reviews, guidelines, and studies on feeding, food refusal, interventions and treatment outcomes. Again, now I know where to go to synthesize the latest information to best serve my little ones with feeding needs.
These examples illustrate the breadth and depth of the evidence maps. There are even future maps, which display resources on topics under development.
I am relieved that I don’t have to sort through hundreds of individual studies to find the ones I truly need. ASHA has done that for me.
Try out the maps—search your favorite topic, your most burning clinical question or whatever gets you thinking and wondering in our profession. A series of four short video tutorials gets you started.
No matter where you practice, who you serve, and what your interest is, you won’t be disappointed.
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January 2018
Volume 23, Issue 1