The York Region Preschool Speech and Language Program (YRPSLP), administered by Markham Stouffville Hospital, provide speech and language services for preschoolers in York Region. Assessment and a range of intervention services are provided to children and their families to support the development of communication skills, and give children the best opportunity for healthy development. Without this help approximately one in 10 children can struggle to listen and talk, learn to read, and find it a challenge to play with other children. As York Region grew, referrals to the program increased and wait times for these much needed services also increased. Almost 2,000 families were waiting up to 12 months to receive an assessment of their child’s needs and an additional 4 months to receive intervention. Families expressed concern that they were waiting too long to get valuable information, not just about their child’s needs, but about what they could do at home or within their community to support their child’s communication development. YRPSLP embraced technology to offer additional, timely support to our clients. While the use of technology is widespread, our practice is innovative in that we embraced technology and used it not simply to tell people about our service and how to refer, but as a tool to empower families. We launched a Facebook and Twitter site in order to share information, community events, and connect families with other agencies and with each other. During the launch of Facebook, we recruited a communication specialist to be our parent engagement consultant as she is also the parent of a child receiving multiple services from us. Her feedback and suggestions helped to shape our Facebook content to meet the needs of our families and ensured we kept them engaged with themes like “Tip-Filled Tuesdays” and Fun-Day Fridays”. In addition, we collaborated with the Early Literacy Specialists of York Region to develop a 4-part live-webinar series to teach families some strategies they could use with their children at home. During the production of the webinar series, feedback was solicited from the participating families after each part through an on-line survey. Results were immediately received so that the subsequent webinar sessions could be adjusted based on their suggestions. Both of these technologies enable families to be better informed and engaged earlier, so that they can begin to implement strategies even before their child’s assessment. Families are empowered to start intervention with their child earlier. Families are also able to access the information at a time and place of their choice. Now, when referred, families are given our Facebook and Twitter addresses and the link to a recorded webinar so they have immediate access to information and strategies.

 

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