As three MSc-SLP students, McCleary, White & Piquette, began their capstone research project in 2019, the goal was to complete an environmental scan of needs for a dual-language stimulation approach in Edmonton and, if needs existed, pilot the program. They found that a need existed and, together with Dr. MacLeod, we developed a partnership with the ABC HeadStart Society. We implemented our StimuLER program. StimuLER is a dual-language stimulation program established in Montréal that aims to to support children in developing their first and second language (MacLeod, Meziane & Pesco, 2020).
The current research study sought to evaluate the implementation of the StimuLER program in partnership with a community-based early childhood intervention program during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of COVID-19, families experienced unprecedented challenges when trying to access early intervention services for their child. Two objectives were identified: (1) Provide recommendations on the implementation of StimuLER sessions in accordance with COVID-19 protocols; (2) explore parent perspectives on early intervention programming during COVID-19 to inform the delivery of future StimuLER sessions.
Through the partnership with the community organization, we delivered four one-hour StimuLER sessions. A formative evaluation of the StimuLER program was conducted in addition to a thematic analysis of parent responses from semi-structured interviews. Parents completed a 30-minute interview; questions pertained to language development and pandemic-related changes to early intervention services (n=8).
Through formative evaluation, we learned more on how to deliver sessions through modifying session activities and being responsive to changing protocols. The thematic analysis on parent perspectives found that families experienced both challenges and unexpected benefits as a result of the pandemic. The formative evaluation provides recommendations on how to deliver StimuLER sessions in accordance with evolving public health restrictions. The wide range in parent perspectives indicates that program providers should provide mixed-delivery of sessions in order to cater to unique community needs. Further research is required to investigate a mixed-method delivery of StimuLER sessions.
DM, EW, JP & AM