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What Students are Appropriate for Teletherapy?

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As we approach Christmas break (where did the time go?!), I wanted to take a moment to answer a question I am frequently asked. "What students are appropriate for teletherapy?" The short answer is-all students! I currently have the opportunity to work with students with a variety of needs from articulation to dysphagia, ranging from mild to severe. I am often asked how I provide therapy to the students with more severe behavior, communication, or language needs. Honestly, when I first envisioned my teletherapy journey, I was asking the same question. Prior to teletherapy, I worked onsite at a school district and outpatient clinic. I was so worried I would not be able to provide effective virtual therapy to the students who needed it the most. By the end of my first week, I realized speech/language teletherapy is... the same as speech/language therapy! I already had the skills and knowledge to treat these students. I just needed to change my viewpoint.

     The most important part to providing effective services virtually is constant communication between the therapist and the facilitator onsite. As SLPs, it is likely we have all encountered a student who had trouble sitting nicely in a chair for the entire session, or who had difficulty staying on task. I  have provided teletherapy to quite a few of these kiddos, along with one who loved to hide under the desk in the classroom and one who loved to run out the door any chance he got. This is why constant communication is important. My facilitator helps position the camera consistently throughout the session so I have visibility of all students- whether they are at the table or under a desk. With her assistance, I have done push-in services, calmed countless meltdowns,  and  have chased a student throughout the halls. I also work with many students who utilize alternative or assistive communication methods. Again, with the help of my facilitator, I am able to program/modify devices and create/implement visual schedules or communication strips-just like I used to do in person.

    A huge bonus with teletherapy is how motivated the students are by technology.  Many of my students have a very difficult time completing work with the typical paper and pencil method, but are pros typing away on the iPad! With the high-tech platform, I can share endless videos or pictures to help motivate and reinforce students. Another pro is that you can find anything on the internet!  If you have a student who is highly motivated by a particular topic or a student who needs multiple tasks per session, you can find everything you need and share it right then and there!

   Another incredible pro to teletherapy, is the collaboration. Dotcom Therapy has a strong, diverse team consisting of Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Behavioral Health Services. Meeting virtually allows for more frequent, higher quality collaboration between all disciplines.  Within 5 minutes, I can Zoom chat with one of our occupational therapists to discuss sensory integration tips or ways to encourage fine motor skills. If I have a student with significant behaviors, I can quickly Zoom with one of our behavioral health specialists for strategies to incorporate in my sessions. With such easy access to highly skilled individuals in different areas, it is possible to service any student regardless of their diagnosis!

     Teletherapy has been such a rewarding experience. I have learned to expand upon my intervention skills, and I have grown as a therapist.  What I've come to realize is, it doesn't matter that you are providing therapy virtually. What matters is how you utilize your skill base in order to meet each student's individual needs, and that can absolutely be done via teletherapy.


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