OPTION Schools Inc. Announces 10th Anniversary of its Listening and Spoken Language Data Repository (LSL-DR)
Information can now be used to raise awareness about the positive educational outcomes for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as further improve those outcomes
OMAHA, NEBRASKA—OPTION Schools Inc. is celebrating the 10th year of the conception of its Listening and Spoken Language Data Repository (LSL-DR). Imagined in 2008 and created in 2010, it is now populated with substantial data by the 48 member organizations involved in the education of students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The LSL-DR is the first reported database that consolidates and holds in one place demographic and outcome measures for children who are deaf or hard of hearing and receive specialized listening and spoken language training from multiple programs throughout the country.
“We are trying to meet a need. Families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing want it known that their child can develop language,” said Tamala S. Bradham, D.H.A., Ph.D., CCC-A, the principal investigator on the project. “In the past, you might see data available on several children—or see a study with 20 or 100 children. We now have the ability to tell the story of 7,000 children. The LSL-DR demonstrates that young children can listen and express themselves through spoken language.”
Bradham added, “The LSL-DR gives us a way to talk to legislators about outcomes individually, at a state level and on a national level. Children who are deaf or hard of hearing can indeed learn to listen, use spoken language, read and sing—all those things. The LSL-DR affords us an opportunity to look at children all across the United States who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Located in Omaha, Nebraska, OPTION is an international, nonprofit organization comprised of listening and spoken language programs and schools for children who are deaf or hard of hearing in Canada, South America, and the U.S.
In 2008, OPTION made it part of its strategic plan to create a LSL-DR. The database went live on Nov. 10, 2010, and OPTION contracted with the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., where Bradham serves as quality and safety advisor. Bradham was chosen to oversee the population of the data.
Bradham said there are multiple uses for the data, including educating the public about positive outcomes for children who are deaf or hard of hearing as well as further improving those outcomes.
She said it took seven years to collect the data because the process was extremely thorough to ensure the systematic collection of enough data points in a low-incident field such as deaf and hard of hearing. “This kind of a project takes times,” Bradham added. “And everyone who took part should be applauded.”
Bradham added, “We didn’t rush into this. We took time to review literature and test procedures and then got programs on board,” she said. “We were consistently reviewing what data was being collected and identifying opportunities for improvement.”
Yearly workshops were held for participating programs on process and measures collection, she said.
Bradham noted that OPTION was “really ahead of its time when it started this process. It saw a need in the literature and worked to fulfill it.”
An article on the implementation of the LSL-DR was recently published in the December issue of Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, a journal of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. It was authored by four principals who worked on the project: Bradham, the first author of the article; Christopher Fonnesbeck, a bio-statistician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Alice Toll, a graduate student, also at Vanderbilt; and Barbara F. Hecht, PhD, director of the Boston campus for Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech.
The article offers an overview of the creation of the database as well as measures selection for data points and information on data collection and entry. An excerpt can be read at http://lshss.pubs.asha.org/article.aspx?articleid=2666236 or by clicking on “OPTION Article Published” at www.optionschools.org/
Hannah Eskridge, president of OPTION, said she is excited about the many possibilities that population of the LSL-DR creates. “We’ve spent seven years entering data and building what’s in the database and bringing all the programs on board to a data collection system together,” she said. “Now, through that database, we can dig into what variables have the most impact on enhancing possibilities for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. There is quite a bit of excitement around this work.”
As a next step in the process, OPTION has created a research committee of representatives from the various member programs who will determine ways in which the data will be used.
Some possibilities include: writing articles to promote awareness around the positive outcomes of listening and spoken language for children who are deaf or hard of hearing; identifying areas for continuing education; and analyzing outcomes to discover areas of improvement.
Bradham said individual programs can use the LSL-DR to review outcomes for individual children and cohorts of children; multiple programs in one state could collaborate and use the data to propose or shape policies in their state; and the information can also be used to track trends and continued opportunities to support students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Eskridge said one example on how the LSL-DR can be used is to study the impact that receiving various services has on a child in terms of his or her educational outcomes. “We know that earlier identification, appropriate amplification and intervention is crucial to outcomes. What we don’t know is if it makes a difference if a child who receives a cochlear implant at a young age has a certain intensity of follow-up services. We don’t know if it matters if they see a therapist once a week or for five days a week,” she said.
Eskridge said educators know the mother’s level of education has an impact on a child’s outcomes. “We don’t know what types of interventions might change that impact,” she said.