UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS (WCIA) — The state of Illinois has changed an internship requirement for students studying speech-language pathology and audiology in the wake of COVID-19.

Students will now be allowed to count telepractice hours while working remotely over the phone or with video conferencing programs.

UI Assistant Professor Jennifer Dahman says students and instructors had a steep-learning curve as they said goodbye to their normal clinic space and moved online.

“Everything stopped so abruptly for us with face-to-face service delivery,” she says. Now, “we share our screens and we’re looking at pictures and watching videos and interactive materials.”

One of her graduate students, Nina Iraci, says she’s working to find inspiration with limited resources. She’s making digital task cards and taping reading exercises at home.

“I think using some of the things at home in a creative way has been the most difficult part,” Iraci says. “Just adapting them.”

As part of her internship requirement, Dahman supervises Iraci’s sessions remotely.

“Our clients are getting two and three clinicians for the price of one, which is really nice for the students as well as the clients,” Dahman says. “Lots of rapport building.”

Dahman says one of the challenges of conducting speech therapy with children has led to an unexpected benefit.

“It’s very hard sometimes for our clients to sit still and focus on a computer screen or tablet screen when it’s a little, small camera,” Dahman explains. “But something that’s been unexpected and a really huge blessing through this is that our parents are now far more involved.”

Still, not everyone has easy access to the technology needed to participate in video conferencing calls.

Iraci is trying to find ways to work around that particular issue.

“A few of my peers and I, we’ve been doing language lesson videos and those are on YouTube,” she says. “We’re just trying to reach those kiddos who may not have the opportunity to have face-to-face or teletherapy.”

Iraci’s videos, geared toward younger clients, are Marsupial Sue & The Koala Who Could.

Dahman says the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology team will be providing free speech and language telepractice sessions May 15 through August 6. For more information, email or call 217-333-2205.