Welcome to 2020! The year of teletherapy. Reports of Covid-19 trickled in slowly. Schools started closing, and the world was experiencing different levels of shutdown, and as a result, I was a brand new teletherapist.
Speech-Language Pathologists have been amazingly adaptable, and we all chipped in and helped each other learn to provide services to our families through the computer. Everyone had a webinar up to help walk people through the process. It’s been a remarkable experience! I do miss my kids, and I prefer in person therapy. This experience has taught me how to use technology and empower families in different ways.
What is Teletherapy?
Teletherapy is the term used when speech therapy services are provided over the computer through an electronic platform (ie. zoom). A computer with audio and video is needed and access to WiFi. Sometimes just the phone is used if the family doesn’t have a computer and/or WiFi. Other than being in person, speech therapy sessions are conducted as close to typical therapy sessions as possible. The added benefit is no one is sharing germs… or driving.
What does it look like?
I begin each session like my in person sessions. “What do you want to play today?” I keep it around 20 minutes with the child and 5 minutes with the parents… 5 minutes to write my note. Your child’s toys are now the therapy toys! I also use more iPad games than during in person sessions. I generally split the time up between work and play to keep the child going and focused. The biggest change is parent participation. I rely heavily on parents to help with distractions and motivation. It’s been a good experience for parents to take part in therapy and help with carry over in the home!
10 Ways Parents Can Help During Teletherapy Sessions
- Limit Distractions. Find a quiet place with limited distractions to set up the computer for therapy. It’s important to turn off the television. They can often participate in therapy with their sibling if goals are still being worked on. If siblings are a distraction, then it’s important to send them to a different room.
- Bring two toys. Find the 3 most motivating activities for your child. It could be toys, markers, play dough, puzzles. You are in charge of holding onto the pieces of the toys during the session. It’s an important job your therapist cannot do through teletherapy. Keep them in a box away from every day play to keep therapy fun! Sometimes a small treat works. Some families use cereal, mini m&m’s, or chocolate chips as a snack during the session. Make sure it’s small and doesn’t take long to chew.
- Play Together. Teletherapy works best for very young children when they are playing with their parent. Put the computer on the floor and put out your two favorite toys. Play together! Your therapist will guide you on what to say or do to make your “play” also therapy. My early intervention sessions have been the best sessions! Your young 2 year old can benefit from teletherapy.
- Get Moving. Sitting in front of a screen is hard for adults. It’s really hard for kids. Get some physical fun in before a session! Running, jumping on a trampoline, going for a walk, etc. Get moving! Sometimes a moving break helps in the middle of a session as well. We all need to get the wiggles out.
- Be Seen. Is the video on? Make sure your therapist can see your child’s face. Make sure you have a good view of your therapist’s face. This is especially important if you are working on articulation. Adjust seating, lighting, or computer brightness if necessary.
- Be Heard. Make sure the audio is on. Turn off mute. Make sure you can hear the therapist. Check that the therapist can hear you. Some therapists will be using a headphone and microphone to help, and this might be a helpful idea for older kids in therapy.
- Stick Around. Parents are an important piece to making teletherapy work for their kids. This is your chance to be in the therapy session and learn what works for your child. It’s tempting to give your older child privacy during their session, but stay close. You will know what they are working on and how to help your child work on their skill throughout the week. Being present in a session will give you so much more information that a quick wrap up at the end will.
- Imitate. Imitate your therapist. The specific way she is talking to your young child is on purpose. It may feel weird or strange. It will be worth the effort. You will see more progress in your child if you imitate your therapist a little bit every day.
- Prepare Questions. Write down any questions you may have for your therapist to answer at the end of the session. This is your time too! Take advantage of having your therapist’s time and ask questions. Make sure you understand the goals and what is happening during the therapy session.
- Be Honest. Tell your therapist if something is not working. We are here to help. If something isn’t working, then we will work together to fix the problem. We want to help your child progress!
Good luck with teletherapy services! I hope these 10 suggestions help make it the best experience for you and your child.
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