Telepractice has been an available treatment modality for health-related fields for some time now. However this pandemic has really shown a spotlight on this delivery model. I am a speech language pathologist, so naturally, I will be discussing virtual speech and language sessions, my experiences with teletherapy, and suggestions and recommendations for successful sessions 💻
Following new stay at home orders, many educators, therapists, and families had to scramble to learn the basics of, to many, a novel service delivery model within days and weeks of school, business, and private practice closures. I offer concierge services, therefore the distancing practices impacted my ability to see clients in their homes. I'm fortunate that I had already dabbled in teletherapy prior to the effects of the pandemic, however moving completely to virtual sessions for the foreseeable future required adjustments and a steady stream of communication with families regarding what to expect from virtual therapy sessions.
Is teletherapy a good fit for my family?
A significant factor to consider is whether a client is appropriate for teletherapy. It may not be the best treatment delivery approach for some individuals and it is up to the therapist and parent/caregiver to determine this, any necessary modifications, and other issues that may arise.
However, for many, teletherapy is a great option! Many children like interacting with technology, think it is fun and different seeing their speech teacher/therapist on a computer, and many families like the convenience of staying at home. Thank goodness for our access to such advanced technology this day, age, and especially during this world health crisis. So many students have received educational instruction and therapy services virtually over the past few months.
A facilitator--a parent, older sibling, aide, caretaker, etc is always necessary during a virtual speech and language therapy session. For little ones, think the birth to 3 crowd, a parent training model is most effective and productive. What does that look like? A parent is engaged and an active participant in the session, the speech therapist will instruct the parent with specific strategies for the child's needs and then the therapist will observe the parent- child interaction and provide real-time suggestions and feedback based on the child's response. Research has shown that parent-implemented language intervention is effective. Sessions can be conducted on the floor with favorite toys and a book or at the table during meals. It is very flexible as the purpose is to implement language boosting strategies in daily activities.
For the older kiddos, including elementary to middle school aged children, a parent should be present/caregiver, if the child is able to control the computer and interact with the presented media, the facilitator can provide a bit of autonomy for the client, however be readily available for any tech issues and behavior issues. It is greatly encouraged that parents observe speech and language sessions to gain knowledge on the what, how, and why of skills being targeted and have a better idea of how to apply strategies in the home. The literature has shown that telehealth is a promising and effective service delivery method for delivering speech and language intervention to school-aged children.😊
What do you need for a speech and language teletherapy session?
Prior to the initial session, it is helpful to become familiarized with the platform that will be used for therapy. The clinician should be able to guide you through this. Current popular platforms include Zoom, Doxy.Me, TheraPlatform, and VSee to name a few. You'll only need a few things to begin your first teletherapy session:
A consistent and reliable internet connection with a download speed of at least 3 mbps and upload speed of 10mbps or more. You can check your internet speed here: https://www.speedtest.net/
WiFi works, however it is best to be directly connected to the internet via ethernet cable to minimize the possibility of disconnections.
A webcam, usually the one on your laptop should work fine or an external webcam ( usually better quality than the one embedded in laptop)
Headset with microphone to cancel out background noise.
Proper lighting: A window should not be directly behind or in front the child.
Here is a helpful checklist for parents/caregivers to keep in mind prior to a teletherapy session:
Getting Started: Teletherapy Checklist for Parents
Ensure Appropriate seating. Find a quiet area for your child to sit during the session. It can be a chair or the ground. It is helpful that this area is consistent from session to session
Set up the computer. Log in to the platform 10 minutes before the session to ensure that the computer and internet are working properly. Test the microphone and speaker
For the little ones: Have a box of toys ready for the child to share with the therapist. It is helpful if placed in a lidded box to decrease distractions
Have a drink with a lid ready (in case your child gets thirsty from all the fun hard work 😉)
Talk to your child about their daily schedule and what to expect.
Clear the clutter: Clean out any distractions, pets, or anything that may interrupt the session.
You can print the checklist out by clicking below
As always, thank you for dropping by! Please send me a shout out if you have any questions or comments! You can also find me on Facebook as Speech Spark SLP or on Instagram @speechsparkslp.
Stay safe, well, and connected, Liz Lian
Wales, D., Skinner, L., & Hayman, M. (2017). The Efficacy of Telehealth-Delivered Speech and Language Intervention for Primary School-Age Children: A Systematic Review.International Journal of Telerehabilitation,9(1), 55–70.