SLPs’ use of LSA weak, not evidence-based

Pavelko et al. surveyed the LSA (Language Sample Analysis) practices of over 1000 SLPs across the United States, revealing that:

  • Only 67% of SLPs are using LSA at all.
  • Those who do use LSA are creating their own self-designed analysis methods, even though evidence-based analyses are available.
  • Over half of SLPs are transcribing the LSAs by hand in real-time, instead of audio/video recording and transcribing post-collection.
  • SLPs are using “conversation” to collect the samples, even though evidence indicates that narrative and expository tasks are better for eliciting complex language, especially for school-aged students.
  • Common barriers cited for LSA use are lack of time and lack of adequate training on how to do it correctly and efficiently. 

See: Pavelko, S.L., Owens, R.E., Ireland, M., Hans-Vaughn, D.L. (2016). Use of language sample analysis by school-based SLPs: results of a nation-wide survey. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 47, 246-258.

If this sounds familiar, perhaps it's because we discussed this very issue just a few months ago. Or maybe you’ve seen other articles explaining why SLPs should be using LSA more. The Pavelko et al. article is unique, however, because of the sheer size of the data set, with detailed analyses.
So clearly we’ve identified a problem. But why does the problem exist, and what should we do about it?
Over at our TISLP Facebook Group, a small group of SLPs and scholars were chatting about this very article a few weeks ago. From this small discussion group, it was quickly evident that only the scholars were using software for analysis (e.g. CLAN and SALT) even though the it’s free (CLAN) or quite affordable (SALT). Clinicians are doing analyses by hand. And most clinicians are unaware that the software not only automates these analyses (with minimal coding upfront) but also has normative data built in. So why aren’t SLPs using LSA software, in order to make these analyses quick and efficient? Well, many of us remember it being challenging to learn CLAN or SALT in grad school, and perhaps have a strong negative reaction to coding. We didn’t do enough LSAs in grad school to get good at it, so willingly abandoned later. The process of re-teaching ourselves is overwhelming, particularly given that the software isn’t particularly user-friendly. And/or maybe many SLPs’ grasp of grammar isn’t where it should be, required for both coding and interpretation. So what is the solution? For SLPs to belly-up, figure it out, and practice until it's easy? Perhaps. That's what we had to do as undergrads learning transcription phonetics. Or maybe the software needs tweaking to make it more user-friendly in the first place? Please, someone, PLEASE create us an LSA app. Whatever the solution, we certainly have enough data to indicate a problem, and clearly it’s time for action.