Are you considering online speech therapy for your child? If so, read on for 3 ways parents can make virtual speech therapy successful. My hope is you’ll learn more about the process and make the most of your speech therapy time.
Recently, a client of mine began completing his speech therapy sessions virtually. John (not his real name), lives quite a ways away from my speech therapy clinic. He was working on finishing up with some articulation sounds. He was motivated to graduate, and his parents were motivated to get him to speech because they wanted others to be able to understand him. John was already using his speech sounds in words and phrases, and just needed some extra practice to get those sounds into conversation.
The Challenge: Busy Families, Busy Schedules
A few sessions in, his parents and I talked about switching up how we provided services. I didn’t want John’s family to get burned out on travel (which could mean they might eventually stop coming). John arrived tired (and sometimes late, since you can’t predict traffic with a commute like that) and really wasn’t always at his best. At that point, we all decided we’d need a change. John’s schedule was packed full. His family’s schedule was packed full. We needed to hit the easy button. Where was it?
A New Idea
While there is no easy way through speech therapy (it requires lots of consistency and hard work), there was an easier way to get through our scheduling challenges. One week later, we started providing services through videochat (also known as telepractice). This means John’s parents didn’t have another long drive to add to their list, and John could be involved in more extracurricular activities, because his schedule opened up without the drive. A week after our conversation, John and I started sessions via telepractice.
What is Telepractice?
Telepractice is using videochat to provide speech therapy service. SLPs often use this term, but health professionals who use it in other settings (or health care companies) might call it telehealth, telemedicine, or many more terms that I don’t even know. I’ve been seeing clients via telepractice since 2013. When I first started doing this, and shared this new job with colleagues, they didn’t even know what it was.
There are certainly some benefits that come with attending speech therapy virtually. It can mean that there is less time driving, and children are less tired. Freeing up this time and saving the child some energy can mean more involvement in activities and family life. It can also translate into less stress on the entire family and more possibilities to drive siblings to their activities.
3 Ways Parents Can Make Virtual Speech Therapy Successful
Providing speech therapy this way certainly can feel within the comfort zone of some families and not so much for others. I typically will provide this service for families who feel comfortable with technology and who I’ve already established a rapport with – they understand what it looks like and trust me to deliver service this way.
I send an invitation link to a meeting room the day before our session (via email), and clients can click on the link on a phone, tablet, laptop or computer. That’s it! I try to make the process as easy as possible so there aren’t too many technology challenges. That said, this service delivery model works best for families who are flexible. After all, we are working with technology. There are sometimes glitches we need to problem solve.
Telepractice Tip # 1: Using a Headset
One of the most important aspects for virtual speech therapy is being able to hear one another clearly. To do so, I recommend using a headset. Most gaming headsets do not work for speech therapy because they lack a microphone piece. What does work are corded headsets that people use with their cell phones, which means there is no need to buy anything new. Also, over the ear headsets are great for minimizing outside noise so your child can really hear. The bottom line is to make sure it has a microphone.
Telepractice – Tip # 2: A Strong Internet Connection
Videochat requires a lot of bandwidth. If you are out and about, 4G isn’t usually enough, and neither are most wifi connections you’ll find outside of your home. Try to be close to the modem or in a place in your house you know gets good internet strength.
Telepractice Tip # 3: Good Lighting
Lighting is important because I’ll need to see what your child is doing with his or her mouth. This is especially true if we are working on speech sounds. In general, lighting on two sides (i.e. a window and a lamp) works best. Make sure the room isn’t dark! If you want to test the lighting, open something you are more familiar with (i.e. a facetime window) and look at how dark you are or aren’t.
I hope this has been helpful in broadening your understanding of how telepractice works and what can help make it successful. I’ve seen kids really grow through this service delivery method. It feels good for me to provide service in a way that’s a lot easier for some families, and doing videochat means that many families have another errand taken off their plates.
If you are interested in receiving speech therapy, you can read more on my FAQ or Contact Page. I am currently working with children in Oregon and California, and am licensed in both states. If you’d like to know if telepractice might work for your family, please contact me.