Integrating therapists into the research: a how-to

Have you ever heard of Triadic Gaze Intervention? No? Me neither. Unless you went to the University of Washington for grad school, you probably don’t know that TGI is an evidence-based protocol with 20 years of research behind it. But hey, we have to give these researchers credit—they acknowledge this common research-to-practice gap, and are invested in working to fix it.

In this study, Feuerstein et al. sought to include early intervention practitioners in their research. Specifically, they used qualitative methods to assess practitioner’s perceptions of Triadic Gaze Intervention, in terms of acceptability and feasibility for implementation. Their overarching goal was to highlight the unique contribution of practitioners in implementing research to practice. #shoutout

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Triadic Gaze Intervention is a technique used to teach toddlers with physical disabilities to use gaze as a form of intentional communication. During play activities, therapists recognize a child’s potential communicative behavior, and shape that behavior toward a three-point triadic gaze. To read more about this method, see Olswang et al. (2014).

So what did SLPs have to say about implementing this highly researched technique in everyday practice? They felt that it closely aligned with their intervention priorities for this population. They found it easy to learn and implement into their current practice. They also thought it was an extremely acceptable and feasible intervention method.

SLPs also listed some potential barriers. They wanted TGI to be taught to a broad range of EI team members, not just SLPs. PTs and OTs are often the first service providers to see toddlers with disabilities, and TGI may align with the motor and social engagement goals targeted by these clinicians. SLPs also brought up the idea that most EI models use a parent training/coaching model. They wanted support from researchers for how to train parents to use this intervention.

So there you have it, folks! Collaboration between researchers and practitioners is not only useful, but necessary for implementing evidence-based protocols into everyday practice. Practitioners should not just be consulted, but integrated into research programs. When we collaborate with each other, everybody wins, including the children.

Feuerstein, J. L., Olswang, L. B., Greenslade, K. J., Dowden, P., Pinder, G.L., & Madden, J. (2018). Implementation research: Embracing practitioner’s views. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1044/2017_JSLHR-L-17-0154