Tele-therapy: Friend or Foe?

Updated: Mar 5

Whether we wanted to or not, the Coronovairus pandemic put technology at the center of many academic and health care institutions. It has called for both families and providers to adapt programs, education, and counseling methods in order to provide high quality care across a novel format.

Are you unsure of how you are feeling about tele-therapy? YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Technology can stop working, connections can drop, appointments can be missed, and children can have a hard time learning. Keep scrolling to see common concerns of tele-therapy and our staffs experience with how it can be successful.

Common misconceptions of tele-therapy for young learners:

He/She doesn't focus tele therapy, he won't pay attention to screen or participate:

An experienced early intervention therapist or pediatric specialist will be able to engage a child through use of their own toys and environment to facilitate language. Parent/caregiver coaching is an extemely important factor of teletherapy. Skilled specialists will help teach tools to the primary caregivers on how to facilitate language and carry-over skills within their daily routines. By interacting together with help from the SLP, parents and caregivers gain confidence in independence in language techniques.

We don't have access to reliable internet:

Most video conferencing formats can be accessed via computer, tablet, or cell phone (data plan or internet). Increasing access to care within the comfort of ones own home.

We are trying to limit screen time, so why offer therapy via a screen:

Again caregiver and parent education an important tool for young learners. When children are very young, much of ther therapy session might be observing the child play or interact with their parent and offering suggestions on how to target certain tasks in a fun, motivational way.

For older learners, therapists can access tons of online activities, from interactive learning games, green screen activities, worksheets, and online books! Kids have opportunity to write, draw, click to show their learning, instead of relying on in person worksheets or other tasks that they may find 'boring'. With technology the child is actually able to access more interesting age appropraite targets with less copying and printing. Children can be presented information and multiple platforms: worksheets, videos, podcasts, radio, games, etc. All acitivities are facilitated by a trained speech pathologist to highlight new vocabulary, grammar structor, pragmatic factors, and other skills.

He/She does better with his teacher than he does with us parents:

Kids will naturally test boundaries and limits more with parents than with a teacher or therapist. However, it is important that kids have opportunities to learn with their parents assistance so home programs can be completed to help maintain new skills and generalize others. A child needs to practice skills in multiple settings with multiple communication partners in order to demonstrate mastery. Kids spend most of their young lives with their primary caregiver, so it can be very powerful for each caregiver to have the tools in their toolbox to support their child's learning, instead of relying on their teacher to do all of the work. (Sigh, if only we could take our lovely therapists home with us.. right?)

Below are general advantages and disadvantages of tele-therapy from the perspective of Simple Speech staff:

ADVANTAGES: more flexibility in scheduling (including make-up sessions), child is learning in natural environment, child is able to use their own toys, talk about vocabulary in your own home, child and parent have consistent practice targeting speech therapy activities with their own homes, family gets more hands on practice with patient, no travel time, no waiting rooms, you can wear your pjs!

DISADVANTAGES: internet/connection, technology needs to be up to date, calls may drop or audio may not work, therapist is not there to provide hands on assistance as they can in person.

It's up to you and your team to decide if tele-therapy is right fit for your family. But one amazing advantage is you now have the option- to cut wait times down, to begin therapy in the comfort of your own home, and encourage early identification and action for your child's learning difficulties.

Sounds like you are ready to prepare for your first tele-therapy session!

Amy Contant, M.A.,CCC-SLP,CLC

Simple Speech

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