You can imagine trying to recruit a sample of this size is also challenging. And at each of the sites, we had strengths — and clinical people who had a network of connections in their state. Those relationships that come through the clinic are really valuable to a researcher because those clinicians can reach out to their contacts, make them aware of the study, and ask that individuals help them in the recruiting enterprise.
Leveraging Collaborations to Drive Recruitment
We’ve had wonderful collaboration from various clinics and families. Families understand that there’s not been a lot of research on hard of hearing children — their children. And in general, they’ve been quite invested in contributing. Professionals have understood that message also.
We’ve had amazing collaborations. For example, the University of Kansas allows us to come and work in their speech and hearing clinic to gather data from the Kansas area. The Moog School in St. Louis is collaborating in the same way. And what’s in it for them? They’re contributing to the science. Their families are allowed to participate in the research. But it’s not that easy to open up your clinic and open up your doors to a research team gathering data. So we’re very appreciative. We have another center in Wichita doing the same thing. That’s really promoted our project.
Promoting Retention through Parent-Friendly Communications
Always in a longitudinal study, attrition is something you worry about. We’ve had very minimal attrition, I’m pleased to report. But part of that was something we thought about a lot. Staying in contact with our families, communicating well with referral sources. We would send newsletters periodically, telling them what we were discovering, and how much we valued their contribution. We did newsletters like that for the parents, as well.
In fact, one of them looked like a Time magazine, and we put their child’s image on the front of this magazine, and all the parents were so proud to see that newsletter with their child’s image. What we did was a parent-friendly summary of all of our discoveries. I can’t say enough about that. Also, families that are seen by our team, they’re able to share with their school district and their audiologist a brief report about our findings. So, they’re gaining some objective results about their child’s performance that’s valuable in their child’s treatment.
It’s a give and take, where all of those things benefit someone who has a child with hearing loss, and that promotes retention in the study.