In the first week that our clinic was closed, I conducted more teletherapy sessions than I have in my entire career. Although Kid’s Creek introduced teletherapy as an option over a year ago, most of my clients still came to the office, so providing teletherapy was a big adjustment for me. Sometimes novel ways of completing tasks can cause us anxiety, frustration, and more, and teletherapy has tested my creativity and perspective-taking.
But in just a few short weeks, I have grown to appreciate and respect speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and other therapists/medical professionals who use teletherapy as their primary means of treating clients. Here are five reasons why:
- The ability to see clients interact in their own home, which is also their most comfortable environment, is a big benefit. It has been rewarding to see how my clients interact with their preferred toys, as well as their parents, in their home. I am able to see what toys or objects my clients play with, how they play with these items, and where breakdowns occur during play. I am also able to gain insight into the natural cues that parents give their children during play.
- Parent education is so important and it allows direct communication with parents throughout the session. Since most of my clients required help setting up the teletherapy platform, their parents were readily available throughout the session, allowing parents insight into how a typical speech therapy session is structured. Parents were also aware of the amount and type of cues I give their child, which makes it easier for them to carry out a home program.
- Preparation is key and it requires me to think “outside of the box” as a therapist. These tweaks can refresh the routine with clients, as well as offer insight into how clients adjust. Teletherapy requires you to upload resources prior to sessions. Prior to each session, I created folders for each of my clients and separated materials by their goals. I had to make sure materials were appropriate for online learning. This also allowed me to use visuals often, which most of my clients really benefit from. I often conduct therapy sessions as 3-5 minutes of hard work followed by 1-2 minutes of structured play (while still incorporating goals). I alter the specific timeline according to each client. Instead of playing with toys or games, my teletherapy clients and I play tic-tac-toe or hangman, or create collaborative drawings, providing even more language opportunities!
- A teletherapy program is easy to establish, as you are able to easily transfer materials that you have uploaded online to parents. Since I was required to upload materials prior to the session, it was very easy for me to email parents specific homework for them to reinforce at home. I could also explain to parents how to use language facilitation techniques with specific toys to incorporate language expansion during structured play. Parents were able to ask me specific questions regarding their home therapy program since they were often present throughout the session.
- Reading evidenced-based research regarding the ins and outs of teletherapy has increased my knowledge as a clinician by requiring me to stay updated on new scientific research. Skilled, specialized intervention works because it is backed by evidence-based research. Scientists and clinicians have conducted research so that SLPs can implement proven models and methods that are shown to increase your child’s speech and language skills. It is empowering to continue to learn and add knowledge to my expertise.
With this in mind, please do not hesitate to ask your child’s SLP if teletherapy could work for your family. Sometimes it is difficult to adjust to new ways of doing things, but switching things around may be equally effective, and in some cases, like a fresh start!
Elena Freeman, MEd, CCC-SLP
Please do not hesitate to reach out to your therapist with any questions about teletherapy. If you are unsure how to contact your child’s therapist, email Clinic Director Melanie McGriff at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will help you.
If you know of a family whose child needs therapy and is unable to receive it right now, note that new patients are welcome and we are able to do most evaluations through teletherapy, as well. Encourage them to contact us for a free consultation.