Covid 19 has really made a giant mess of things. It has changed the way we do many things. This also happens to be the case with the way we provide speech therapy.
Traditional speech therapy ( in the private setting) consisted of having the child, with the therapist, in a private room, while their goals were targeted ( articulation difficulties, language impairments, fluency disorders, problems eating and drinking,etc…). The parent would usually come into the room at the the end of the session; the therapist would go over the highlights, assign homework, and the parent and child would leave and go on their merry way.
This is sadly not the case any longer.
While we are still doing speech therapy in person for some children – there is a lot more visual and auditory distraction than usual. From the therapist wearing masks ( and some children if they are able to), taking temperatures, washing hands, and playing with only toys that can be easily cleaned and sanitized , therapy is definitely different from both the therapist and the child. For the children that now are unable to come to a private office, teletherapy was now born.
In the beginning – tele-therapy was kind of thrown at everyone. Not many therapists and parents knew how to work and log into a “virtual session”. Unfortunately for some parents and therapists, many people were not prepared and therapy services may have lacked fun and creativity. We also feel that the use of teletherapy was not done correctly for all children, as many therapists and/or parents thought they could just replace the office setting with a computer screen- have the child ( some the age of 2) sit in front of the computer, have the therapist run their lesson, and then after 25 minutes, pop back on to the computer screen and get their homework and be on their way. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
But…. there is one real positive thing about teletherapy for speech therapy. It has actually made parents become valuable team members when implementing speech therapy exercises and activities to the help their child. If done correctly, speech teletherapy can significantly cut down on your kids need for services.
“But how can that be????? Surely you are joking ????” ( we hear this a lot). If the child is young and cannot sit for a 30 minute session ( many older kids even have problems with this), consulting with the parent as to what to do is vital in helping with therapy. For example, if your son has a problem producing a certain sound, we can show YOU placement activities to help alleviate the issue. This way during the day if you son tries to “food” and says “dood”, you can say “Remember what Miss Jessica said, bite your lip and say /fff/” etc… And you can make the change yourself- in real time – rather than waiting for your next speech appointment. Once you are able to use the techniques we show you, this can significantly lead to less dependence on speech therapy appointments over the long term.
This principle also holds true with children who many not be speaking yet. A good tele-therapy session will have our therapists showing you want to do while we play with the child, not forcing the child to sit in from of the iPad or computer ( many kids won’t even stay still for a picture, let alone sit and pay attention to a therapist telling them what to do for 30 minutes) . Many times we ask parents to put the iPad on a shelf in their play area, or on the TV through the webcam- so we can see and observe. Many children don’t mind playing with their parents while listening to a therapist talk in the background – its just more them having fun while playing with mom and dad! We then can directly play with the child, let them have a break and talk to the parents, or both! It makes for a much easier interaction – then forcing your child to sit in your lap while they try to squirm away or scream their head off, making you miserable in the process.
Tele-therapy may not work for everyone – some children may not actually benefit from it. However, it is ( in our opinion) worth giving it a shot, especially if the alternative is limited or no speech therapy, or therapy with so many distractions, your child isn’t getting the most out of it.
We offer a free consult to see if speech tele-therapy is right for you. What do you have to lose?