Is Online Speech Really Effective?
Teletherapy may be new to most of us in the speech world, however, it has been around for a while now. Schools and more rural areas with fewer SLPs have relied on teletherapy to get services to children in need. It’s effectiveness is shown in the research. As a professional community, we could benefit from more research.
Pros of Teletherapy/ Online Speech Therapy
Continued Services, Safely
Online speech means we not only can continue speech during the pandemic, but also during longer breaks when in-person sessions might not be possible. We are still targeting the same goal, with a change in the delivery of services.
With continued therapy and participation, comes continued progress. While it does take some children longer than others to “warm up” to online speech therapy, I’ve seen continued progress towards their goals which has allowed us to move further than we ever have before!
Online speech therapy allows our speech families to participate in weekly speech sessions from anywhere in the world! This increased flexibility allows us to continue speech services and make progress even over school breaks or longer vacations. Teletherapy also allows for increased flexibility with schedules as it eliminates all travel time. This increases scheduling flexibility on both the SLP side and the family’s side. For example, if the child has a break in the middle of their virtual school day, we can easily schedule a session there!
At Suite Speech, we use a teletherapy platform called TheraPlatform. We chose TheraPlatform because it had many interactive features including speech-specific applications, short games for rewards, a shared whiteboard, and the opportunity to share screens. In addition to these features, we can upload speech documents and write on them. The children seem to love it as much, if not more than, I do!
Opportunities for Parent Training
I saved my favorite teletherapy outcome for last- parent training! With online speech therapy, parents and I can collaborate on a weekly basis. We usually spend the last five minutes of the session going over goals targeted during the session and home practice ideas for the week. If you are a parent or SLP, I highly recommend incorporating this into your weekly sessions! It’s a great opportunity to continue the speech therapy after the session is over and gives parents/caregivers fresh ideas to work on speech skills at home.
Cons of Teletherapy/ Online Speech Therapy
Maintaining attention to a screen is a more difficult aspect of teletherapy. To increase the child’s attention and interest in online speech I try to make each session as motivating and interactive as possible. The platform we use at Suite Speech includes games, a shared whiteboard and the option to share screens. Using the interactive features, along with toys from home and the child’s increased comfort with the platform seems to increase participation naturally. However, when there are difficulties that can’t be managed through the screen, I ask parents to stay nearby to troubleshoot any difficulties.
At times, the teletherapy platform applications may freeze or someone’s internet might log a person out of the session. Although we’ve significantly reduced the number of times technical difficulties occur, they do happen and can be expected. If you are concerned with internet speed, I recommend checking it online with services such as speedtest.net.
For those who like a consolidated version of the above information, I’ve included a list of pros and cons below! Given the ins and outs of teletherapy, I think it could be a sustainable option in the future as an add-on or for more distant families.
Pros: Continued therapy and progress, increased opportunities for parent training and collaboration.
Cons: Technical difficulties, maintaining attention, setup Overall: The benefits of continuing online speech therapy outweigh the difficulties teletherapy poses.
Now that we are well into virtual learning, what is your experience with online speech therapy so far? Let me know in the comments!
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