Service Providers Use the Internet to Offer New Services

by Judith Maginnis Kuster - Minnesota State University, Mankato (judith.kuster@mnsu.edu).

The Internet is a powerful tool for connecting people and finding information when other sources aren't readily available. Two examples are provided below and are used with permission. The speech-language pathologists (SLPs) involved received no remuneration.

The first demonstrates how a long-term Internet "friendship" provides therapeutic value. The story is told by a stroke survivor.

In Jan. 1990 (at 50 yrs of age), I had a "Ponteen" stroke (severe!), (in the brainstem, so inoperable!). . . . Prior to my stroke, I had been a child psychologist, but now could no longer work! I was in intensive care for two months . . . & then in the hospital's "Rehab. Wing" for 7 months more. . . . There I was: unable to talk . . . or swallow, & could only stand with much, much help . . . not being able to write . . . . I was now hemiplegic, so I was in a serious predicament!

With the help of PTs & OTs, plus an SLP & a psychologist, I did make some progress, & eventually went directly from the hospital to a post acute Rehab. Ctr. for 3 months. . . . From there I came home. Since being home, I attended about three months more of outpatient speech therapy & PT, but then it was determined that I would not show any more progress, so that was eventually terminated.

I also learned computer skills (a really VERY, VERY BIG . . . help). I spend much time on my computer [which] has been my "lifesaver"!!!!!!!!! I made friends with an SLP via the Internet, & she [offered valuable encouragement and support] --THIS SEEMED TO HELP A LOT. . . . I can now "croak" a conversation, & print with my right hand (sort of sloppily). . . . .

The following correspondence demonstrates the amazing speed of the Internet and the wonderful referral resource all ASHA members have.

Our 5-year-old son has been classified as having a specific language disability. . . he is at times unable to understand certain things and commands properly and also unable to explain what he is feeling, what he has been doing during the day or describe certain situations. However, his memory is extraordinary. . . . . As parents, obviously our main concern and fear is how he will be when he grows up. Will he be a normal person? Will he lead a normal life? . . . . Can you help us in finally finding out what is causing this disorder . . . is there a name for his disability ? . . . . We would be very grateful if you could give us a reply to the above as soon as possible or perhaps some directions as to where we could take our child for assessing in the UK or Spain, although our son has very little knowledge of the Spanish language and would have to be seen to by a doctor who speaks English. Two very anxious parents, Gibraltar, Europe

Checking the ASHA directory, available to ASHA members under "member to member" on the ASHA home page (http://professional.asha.org), I discovered three certified SLPs living in Spain and responded:

I applaud you for seeking more information and potential services for your son. Although trying to advise over the Internet without proper evaluation would not be appropriate for me, attached are the names of addresses of three American Speech-Language-Hearing Association certified speech-language pathologists who are in Spain and were trained in the U.S., so I assume their English would be very good. I also checked Gibraltar and didn't find any ASHA-certified SLPs there. I hope this is helpful.

I received this response less than 24 hours after the first letter:

We are extremely thankful for your kind and prompt reply. We would like to inform you that we have contacted all three names you gave us and look forward to a meeting with one of them real soon. In the meantime, we would like to send our best wishes to you and really thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Judith Kuster is in the department of communication disorders at Minnesota State University , Mankato. Contact her by email at judith.kuster@mnsu.edu.


Kuster, JM, Service Providers Use the Internet to Offer Services, ASHA Leader, April 17, 2001, p. 14