Online teletherapy for your child’s speech-language therapy: 5 benefits and 5 myths.
Updated: Jul 11, 2020
A convenient and high quality option for receiving therapy services for your child from a certified #speech language pathologist (SLP). It has gained significant popularity as access to technology has become commonplace and being online is now second-nature in most communities across the country. A SLP is able to provide high quality services to your child with speech, language or feeding/swallowing difficulties, except in this case, it is online using a HIPAA secure video conferencing platform and not in a therapy room.
So if you are wondering if #teletherapy is right for your infant, toddler, or preschooler, I will help explore the benefits and myths of teletherapy.
1. Teletherapy allows greater access to therapy.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has stated that they support teletherapy because it gives people more ways to access speech-language pathology services. Read more about AHSA's overview of teletherapy here. It gives access to families in rural and remote areas of the country where they may not be able to reach a clinic or hospital easily for therapy. In addition, it allows clients to work with a provider who specializes in specific disability or treatment even if they are in a different state.
2. It’s easier to schedule and prioritize.
Families are busy enough as it is: work, pick-ups, drop-offs, sports practice, music lessons, homework, cooking. Schedules today are jam-packed. You have the best intentions, and you know therapy is important, yet you dread adding another thing to the list. Teletherapy eliminates the need to pack up the kids, load them into the car, drive 30-60 minutes to a clinic or hospital for therapy, and then drive home. Without the hassle you are less likely to skip sessions and lose momentum. Inconsistency in therapy hinders progress.
3. Parent involvement helps with faster progress.
It typically takes LOTS of practice to develop new skills. SLPs are amazing at providing these opportunities to kids during therapy, however, they don't usually get much time with your child every week. To progress faster, your child should have opportunities to practice outside of direct therapy. During teletherapy with children under 5 years old, the parent needs to be actively involved in all sessions. As the parent, you are not just listening to recommendations or observing the therapist use a technique. You are being coached and directed in real time of how to do it yourself and why it works. You get immediate feedback and are more likely to practice the same skills at other times of the week. The more your child gets to practice, the quicker they will progress.
4. Therapy anywhere you need it to help your child meet their goals.
The ultimate goal of traditional clinic, school or hospital based therapy is to have kids carry-over their new skills to the home or natural environment from a “therapy setting”. Teletherapy is already happening in the comfort of your own home- so the work you and the SLP are doing with your child is already transferring to your everyday routines.
Teletherapy is portable. If your child is doing great at home following 1-step directions… but Grandma disagrees...the next session could be working with both of you at Grandma’s house. If mealtimes are a challenge for your extra picky eater, set up the computer in the kitchen to work through concerns with the SLP. All you need for teletherapy is a computer and secure internet connection.
5. Teletherapy can work for all ages! Even babies and toddlers.
SLPs provide teletherapy speech-language (and even feeding/swallowing therapy) services to clients of all ages. Many SLPs work with adults or school aged children where the child is interacting with the platform on the screen. It is unreasonable to ask a toddler to sit in front of a computer screen for a whole session. For children younger than 5 years old, the focus of teletherapy shifts to the family/parent-coaching model to be most effective.
When working with younger kids, many tend to be shy or act different when not at home with people they are comfortable with. SLPs are always hearing parents say “He acts so different at home!” or “She is not usually like this, I swear!”. Because we are in the home with your family like a fly on the wall, we can see exactly what is happening at home and address those concerns right on the spot.
1. Teletherapy is not secure.
This is a concern many parents have when embarking on setting up teletherapy for their child. ASHA has mandated that SLPs who provide teletherapy adhere to strict regulations according to HIPAA policies to keep patient information confidential.
How do SLPs do this?
We use a video conferencing platform that is HIPAA compliant. Free video chat programs like Skype or Facebook Messenger are not allowed. Make sure that the SLP that you work with is using a HIPPA compliant platform.
2. SLPs who provide teletherapy aren’t as qualified.
All SLPs must hold the same credentials and licenses regardless of if they see clients in-person or online. SLPs who provide teletherapy must also hold a state license in speech-language pathology in the state they live in as well as the state that the client lives in. Keep in mind: whether teletherapy is available or covered by insurance depends on the state.
3. Teletherapy is appropriate for everyone.
Not true- as mentioned above, it is an equally effective way of providing therapy. Like anything else though, teletherapy has some limitations. It is up to the SLP to determine if a particular child will receive maximum possible benefit from teletherapy. Therapy must always be individualized for this reason.
SLPs want your child to be successful, so those that offer teletherapy get specialized training in providing effective treatment using this model. If you start doing teletherapy and find out it isn’t the right therapy option, you aren’t stuck! Your therapist may be able to switch to in person services or refer you to another SLP who can.
4. The extra screen time will hurt my child.
Limiting screens is definitely crucial for early overall child development, but...teletherapy does not count as “screen time”.
Recommendations made by the American Academy of Pediatrics to limit screen time for young children is in reference to static screen watching, not two way communication via video chatting. They recommend not having children, especially under age 2, sit down and watch a T.V. show (even if it’s educational). The reason is that there is no reciprocal, or back and forth, communication which is necessary for developing strong language skills. Video chatting helps build social relationships. So feel free to Facetime the grandparents! It’s a great language model and opportunity to practice taking turns talking.
Similarly, teletherapy is a live, reciprocal and engaging conversation between the therapist and your family as if they were there in person. With younger kids, teletherapy utilizes the parent-coaching model to help parents take the reins in therapy while the SLP coaches and supports. Your child will be engaging largely with you during therapy as opposed to directly with the screen.
5. The SLP can’t evaluate my child through the screen.
Before initiating therapy services, a SLP needs to complete a thorough comprehensive evaluation to help diagnose and guide treatment. The evaluation can include administering a formal assessment, observation, or parent questionnaire. All of these things are possible through teletherapy. There are even assessments that have been adapted to use specifically with teletherapy. Just remember to follow the SLP’s guidelines during the evaluation- they are trying to figure out what your child’s strengths and areas of need are. If you help your child, the SLP won’t get an accurate picture of your child to develop an appropriate treatment plan.
In our fast-paced society where the benefits of online convenience rule the day, why not look to online teletherapy for your child’s speech-language and feeding therapy. There are so many benefits that can make it the perfect fit for your family.
If you think your infant, toddler, or preschooler needs speech, language, or feeding/swallowing therapy: reach out to a local SLP or a teletherapist SLP who practices in your state.
Gooseberry Speech Therapy LLC specializes in teletherapy for children birth to 5 years old. Visit our website for more information or call/email us to set up a teletherapy evaluation for your child.
All posts and information provided in this blog are for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Your should follow medical direction and advice given from your personal physician or healthcare professionals that you are working with directly. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that you have read on this blog or in any linked materials.
Professionals are required to ensure that therapy services provided are appropriate and evidence-based for your particular client regardless of information or therapeutic advice provided here. Gooseberry Speech Therapy LLC authors and all guest authors on this blog will not be held responsible for the actions or consequential results of any action taken by any reader.