Many Speech and Language Therapists have moved their services online during the pandemic. I am grateful to have this opportunity to keep offering services to the families and schools that I work with.
But is online Speech Therapy (also known as Teletherapy) even an option for your child? This blog is written to help you to understand how your child can continue to benefit from this method of delivering services, and what changes you might see in how we deliver, compared to more traditional face-to-face services.
First up, it is important to know that online Therapy existed before the pandemic, and is a popular and successful way to deliver Therapy in many parts of the world. So this is not an untested method of supporting children's communication.
I have tried to anticipate some thoughts you might have about your own child benefiting from this Therapy method below.
My child is very young, or has complex needs that mean they can't engage with a screen at all. What can they get out of online Therapy?
In face-to-face Therapy with young children and those with more complex learning needs, we are often working on skills that adults can develop to support children's communication through the day. This doesn't change when we deliver online.
The most powerful person to support your child's communication is you, and it always has been
Where Speech Therapists may have done observations of your child's play, communication and of adult's interaction with them in person, we may now use other tools, such as asking you to take videos of specific situations to guide our assessment. In some ways this can work even better than face-to-face, because you can take videos of your child in lots of different situations to make sure we get the most rounded view of their skills.
In face-to-face Therapy we often send a lot of time explaining behaviours to families, suggesting strategies to try and then reviewing and problem-solving the impact of these strategeis. This still takes up a large part of online appointments too.
What we may have to do is to do more talking through suggestions than being able to model them to you. We need you to be a more active Therapy partner than ever before!
My child can engage with and likes the screen, but they will not sit and focus for very long, how can they take part in online Therapy?
Engaging with activities on a screen can be more challenging for lots of children, including those whose attention is not usually an area of difficulty. Your Therapist will adapt by making sesisons and activities shorter and finding ways to make them more enegaing. You can help by:
- Preparing your child before the sessions. Make sure they are not hungry, thirsty or in need of a trip to the loo if you can!
-Help them understand what is going to happen- your Speech Therapist should be able to help you with some visuals to show to your child to help the understand who they are going to see and what they need to do.
- Try to make sure the environment is quiet and distaction-free as possible. This might mean clearing other people out of the space whilst you work. If you can't do this, for example, if you have another child in the room, we will try to find ways to include them in the session too!
- Create a 'focus space' that helps your child understand that they need to concentrate. Clear a space for your device, make sure it is propped up properly where it will not slip, and where you child can see the screen well. Make sure that you have a place for your child to sit, and make sure it is high enough so that your Therapist can see your child's face properly, especially their mouth!
- Try to sit where natural light can fall on your child's face to let your Therapist get the best possible view
-It's really important that you are available to support your child for the whole session. We will often give you instructions or need some feedback from you on what your child is doing.
-Prep any materials you have been sent and make sure you have them available and organised so that your child does not have to wait (and potentially become distracted) during the session.
- Don't worry too much if your child gets up and move around, but try to put some limits on it! Children often need to move around to help them to focus. It is not the end of the world if your child wants to get up and fetch something to show their Therapist. Your Therapist will work with you to develop ideas over a few weeks to help your child to stay on-task at the screen. We might schedule in some time to say hello to your dog, or look at their favourite toy!
Online Therapy is different in some ways to face-to-face Therapy, but you may be surprised how much we can acheive.
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