A Survey of the Practices of Social Workers Working with Children with Adverse Childhood Experiences and Speech, Language, and Communication Needs
There is evidence to suggest that children who have Adverse Childhood Experiences are at increased risk of having Speech, Language, and Communication Needs, physical health problems, and mental health issues compared to their non-maltreated peers (Law and Conway 1992; Felitti et al. 1998; Trocme et al. 2010; Lum et al. 2015; Sylvestre et al. 2016). Building resilience in children is essential for supporting children's health. Resilience develops through healthy relationships with adults, including parents, teachers, Speech Language Pathologists, and Social Worker (Schore 2003; Ellis and Dietz 2017). Once Social Workers identify children with Adverse Childhood Experiences, they can refer to Speech Language Pathology services. Speech Language Pathologists can provide early intervention for children with Adverse Childhood Experiences and Speech, Language, and Communication Needs to support their speech, language, and communication development. This may benefit other areas of development- cognitive, emotional, and physical as well (Fox and Rutter 2010; Guralnick 2011). This research study explored Social Worker's perspectives and knowledge of Adverse Childhood Experiences and Speech, Language, and Communication Needs in children, referral practices, multidisciplinary teams, and collaborative practices in Newfoundland and Labrador. An online survey was sent to a population of SWs in NL who have experience working with children. Quantitative and Qualitative data was collected and presented in Tables and Figures. Qualitative data were assigned codes and grouped into main themes. The data collected was linked to the research aims of the study. 57 Social Workers living in NL responded to the online survey. Results indicated that the Social Workers’ knowledge base of Adverse Childhood Experiences and Speech, Language, and Communication Needs is high. Respondents understand the impact that Adverse Childhood Experiences can have on a child's speech, language, and communication development. Respondents reported that multidisciplinary teams involving Speech Language Pathologists and Social Workers could benefit the services provided to children in Newfoundland and Labrador and enable better access to early intervention services. Respondents indicated that further learning opportunities' in the area of Adverse Childhood Experiences and Speech, Language, and Communication Needs would benefit their profession. Respondents stated that the current needs of children with Adverse Childhood Experiences and Speech, Language, and Communication Needs are not being met. The need for more referrals to the Speech Language Pathology service is indicated. The first recommendation of the survey findings is that when Social Workers identify children with Adverse Childhood Experiences, a Speech Language Pathologist should screen children for Speech Language, and Communication Needs. The second recommendation is for further learning opportunities involving Social Workers and Speech Language Pathologists to build more awareness of Speech, Language, and Communication Needs. The third recommendation is that Speech Language Pathologists have further access to children and families who have experienced adversity so that specialist Speech Language Pathology intervention can occur to meet each child's communication needs and to engage the family in therapy and goal setting.