Waiting lists and prioritization of children for services: Speech-language pathologists' perspectives

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BackgroundWaiting lists occur when the availability of speech-language pathology services does not meet the demand. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) commonly manage waiting lists and their consequences using prioritization.AimsThe aims of this study were to: (1) describe speech-language pathology waiting lists for children and factors associated with their presence in workplaces throughout the world, and (2) describe factors considered in and influencing SLPs’ prioritization of children for services.MethodsA questionnaire about pediatric waiting lists and prioritization was completed by 267 SLPs from 10 countries working in health, disability, education, and private sectors. Valid responses to closed questions from 264 SLPs were analyzed quantitatively.ResultsMost (73.6 %) SLPs reported having a waiting list in their workplace. Waiting lists were most common in community health centres (97.4 %). Waiting times ranged from 0 to 42 months (M = 8.09, SD = 5.84). High priority was assigned to infants (77.4 %), toddlers (65.3 %), children with feeding difficulties (88.5 %), and children who stutter (47.4 %). Prioritization parameters ranked as most important were: severity (M = 4.34), availability of resources (M = 4.11), diagnosis (M = 4.04), and age (M = 3.91).ConclusionsMany workplaces have long waiting lists for speech-language pathology services. Young children, feeding, and stuttering were most often considered high priority; however, prioritization can be complex, implicit, and influenced by external factors. Collaborative development of explicit, transparent waiting list and prioritization guidelines within workplaces, and the development and evaluation of active waiting strategies for children and families are recommended.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106099
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Communication Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 04 May 2021


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