Categorías: España

España.- Profesora de la UOC impulsa una plataforma especializada en comunicación para menores con discapacidad sin lenguaje oral

In Spain there are more than four million people with disabilities , of which  30%  have  complex communication needs . This group of more than a million people with developmental disorders —such as childhood cerebral palsy, Rett syndrome, or autism spectrum disorder, among others— do not develop oral language and therefore need to use an alternative communication system.

AlfaSAAC  is a project for the creation of a  Spanish-speaking online platform for training, accompaniment, advice and research  in augmentative and alternative communication and literacy for minors with this problem. The initiative, led by Ruth Candela, a psychiatrist and associate professor at the   UOC’s  Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences , is one of the eight finalists for SpinUOC , the UOC’s entrepreneurship programme, promoted by the  Hubbik platform , which It will be held on October 1.

Augmentative and alternative communication —still very little spread in our country— consists of using any form of communication —apart from speech— to express thoughts, needs, desires and ideas, with the particularity that people do not use their own voice, but other methods, such as pictographic systems, specific software, eye readers, etc.

«In children with disabilities who use this type of communication, the  acquisition of language and literacy require a highly specialized implementation  that requires great support, and we want to accompany them in this challenge,» explains Ruth Candela,  Master in Neuropsychology  and current student of the  university master’s degree in Learning Difficulties and Language Disorders . «Like speech, this alternative language is constituted in society and these minors —due to their physical, motor, sensory, and communication barriers— have very few opportunities to develop it,» Candela continues.

AlfaSAAC’s objective is  to create a space for professionals and families of children with disabilities to learn to communicate  with them and to offer them the necessary opportunities to learn to read and write. It will incorporate support groups and specialized training for both family members and professionals, to know how to evaluate and implement the different teaching strategies and technologies.

«Its online format will allow it to reach a large number of families and professionals, who will be able to feel accompanied on the difficult journey of giving voice to people without oral language,» he explains. In addition to transferring the knowledge generated in some universities outside our borders, AlfaSAAC will also promote the development of research in this field, still unknown in Spain.

The project, which is in the development phase of the web, is a very personal initiative of Ruth Candela, together with Ana Jacas, Ana Medina, Patricia Velasco and Beatriz Bellido, also promoters of the platform, and in collaboration with the speech therapist and psychologist Begoña Lloréns, since all five are mothers of children with developmental disorders who, among other barriers, have a lack of oral language.

«The idea of ​​AlfaSAAC has been taking shape little by little, in a very natural way, as we have been finding obstacles in our way to help our sons and daughters. It is what we would have liked to have from the beginning”, they conclude. AlfaSAAC has been awarded for its entrepreneurial objective by Hyundai Motor Spain, with the initiative ‘As big as you want to be’, which seeks to give visibility to anonymous projects that improve people’s lives.

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Speech therapy in times of COVID-19

The situation generated by COVID-19 has forced health professionals to carry out remote interventions. In the case of speech therapy – a discipline that encompasses the diagnosis, evaluation, treatment and prevention of pathologies of communication, language, speech, voice, hearing and other oral functions, such as chewing or swallowing — Very little is known about the scope of telepractice in Spain.

In this context, the UOC’s  Cognition and Language research group ( GRECIL ) has launched a study  with the aim of finding out the use and  perception of speech therapists of  this  intervention  format and the evolution experienced  during the pandemic . The survey will take place during the month of July and is aimed at professionals in this specialty who are active in Spain, without the need for prior virtual assistance.

«In other countries, mainly in the United States and Australia, positive indications are being found regarding the effectiveness of telepractice in multiple intervention areas and pathologies (aphasia, swallowing, autism, child language pathology…), but knowledge on its use in Spain is scarce”, explains Alfonso Igualada, professor and researcher at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, director of the  Speech Therapy degree (interuniversity: UVic-UCC, UOC)  and coordinator of the study.

«Taking these indications into account, as well as the cost and benefit and the reduction in travel that telepractice allows, it seems that it is a very interesting type of intervention to be included permanently in the portfolio of services of speech therapists, and for this reason we need to know the disposition of the profession to promote this change”, affirms the researcher.

The study will collect information on the professional profile of specialists in this scientific field, their perception of virtual assistance and the evolution that has taken place since the start of the pandemic. «We are interested in knowing what the state of telepractice was prior to the appearance of COVID-19, but also the process of change, that is, how professionals have reacted and what are the future prospects of this modality of intervention», highlights Alfonso Igualada.

According to the promoters of the research, the study will also make it possible  to focus on effective lines of intervention and propose future research  adjusted to the perception and uses of professionals, such as which remote intervention models are more effective.

Para participar en el estudio es necesario rellenar un formulario de participación. Una vez completado, los interesados recibirán un cuestionario que tiene una duración de entre 20 y 35 minutos. Hasta el momento, más de 200 personas —de las cuales un 95 % son mujeres— han mostrado ya su interés en participar en el estudio.

Curso de telepráctica en logopedia en UOC X

UOC X – Xtended Studies, la rama de la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya que aglutina toda la formación que va más allá de la universitaria, también está preparando un programa centrado en la formación en esta modalidad de intervención virtual. Telepráctica en logopedia es un curso de especialización breve (1 crédito) diseñado con la finalidad de enseñar a los logopedas (fonoaudiólogos y terapeutas del habla) a utilizar la intervención a distancia con sus pacientes partiendo desde cero.

«It is an  eminently practical training  in which students will be introduced to the  use of methodologies and intervention strategies, tanto síncronas (conexión virtual en tiempo real entre usuario y logopeda) como asíncronas (intervención virtual sin conexión en tiempo real), que permiten aplicar la telepráctica al campo de la logopedia», explica Alfonso Igualada, coordinador del curso.

The program will range from the introduction to the scientific evidence that underpins the virtual treatment of speech therapy pathologies, going through the most effective technological tools, to the design of speech therapy telepractice sessions taking cultural and linguistic variables into account.

Related interview:  Ruth Candela: «ALFASAAC accompanies the difficult path of giving voice to children without oral language»

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José Sebastian

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