Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a bit of a TikTalk cheerleader, and that my professional aspiration is to be an “innovative, inspired, and informed” SLP. In that vein I try to keep up on trends and articles related to my profession and drink in opportunities for continuing education. With the large quantity of information crossing our ears, desks, and smartphones, I choose my input judiciously. In the December, 2019, ASHA Leader, I hit the jackpot with Nancy Volkers’s article, “WORK: Only Its Name Will Stay the Same.” The article spoke to me both for the glimpse into where the field of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) is headed and also for how I believe TikTalk fits into that picture.
Volkers predicts that the age of multiple weekly therapy visits will pass, and that assistants and family members will be delegated appropriate tasks. I agree. However, by “assistants” she refers in some detail to the Speech-Language Pathology Assistant profession (SLPA), and I’m including TikTalk! Outsourcing repetitive speech drill and feedback to the TikTalk under SLP direction & monitoring will take “drill sergeant” out of our job description and free us to sharpen our diagnostic, intervention, and collaboration roles while serving more students, more appropriately, and with better use of our time.
The article is aptly titled as it reminds us that technological automation continues to change the workforce. The first time I struggled with an ATM machine, I foolishly and loudly predicted that this would never “catch on.” Once there were hundreds of thousands of ATM machines in the US alone; I had to grin and admit that yes, they did in fact “catch on.” It unexpectedly became a world where we do our banking and even shopping through machine automation, and many of us didn’t see this coming.
What about the field of CSD? Neil DiSarno, ASHA’s chief staff officer for audiology, stated that “Machine learning might…determine whether a patient is making progress. There may be some things that have been done by audiologists that can be done…with artificial intelligence…” Clearly DiSarno is aware that technological automation will likely impact our sister profession, audiology; however, technological automation will also elevate the role of SLPs! Delegation and technological automation will free us from performing repetitive tasks when appropriate, and give us time and headspace for thoughtful diagnostics, interventions, problem-solving, decision making, and continued education.
There was also a discussion on the merits of teletherapy. I found it interesting that rather than considering teletherapy as a fallback option for the geographically disadvantaged; Tracy Sippl, owner and CEO of S & L Teletherapy Consulting, shared that our students are familiar with and may actually prefer learning through this format. She reports that older students may balk at going to an SLP in person but think it’s “cool” when given the opportunity to improve their communication skills online. I’ve also found this to be true. “They’re digital natives; they can’t view a world without it,” she notes.
There is an opportunity on the horizon for SLPs to practice differently. Volkers urges us to change with the tide. I see TikTalk as part of that change, bringing us to more students’ doors and with better outcomes.