Online speech and language therapy has increased expeditiously since March of 2020 when COVID-19 caused many clinics, private practices and schools to close its doors. For most service-based occupations, such as, speech language pathology, the pandemic caused an interruption in services, a pause in services and/or forced providers to consider other service delivery models including online speech therapy (telehealth, telespeech, telepractice). For most providers, including speech language pathologists (SLPs) this was a new way of delivering speech language pathology services and many were skeptical about its efficacy. There was a learning curve for providers and for clients, including, children, teachers and administrators. During this time SLPs delivered services online and have had excellent outcomes. Now that the pandemic has passed and life is back to "normal" many providers have continued to provide speech language pathology services online because of the many benefits it provides. The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association's position on telepractice is that telepractice "must be equivalent to the quality of services provided in person". As a speech language pathologist with over twenty five years of "in person" speech therapy I am seeing amazing results as an online SLP!
First, in order to deliver high quality services both clinician and client need high speech internet, a tablet, iPad, computer or smart phone to benefit from quality, synchronous videoconferencing. There are many options in regards to platforms to use when providing telespeech, however, we at Universal Speech Therapy, decided to use the Zoom platform to connect to clients. The Zoom platform is user friendly and allows the clinician to share the computer screen with the client. It allows the clinician to share remote control with the client so they may use their mouse to play games or to complete online activities. A Zoom link is emailed to the client and from there the client simply clicks on the Zoom invitation to enter the online meeting.
There are many benefits to delivering speech language therapy online. First, the parent is more involved and can see what their child is working on. Parents have a more interactive role and can see their child's progress and challenges. Speech language pathologists can show parents evidenced based strategies on how to engage their child and ways to elicit speech and language skills through play. For example, SLP's can teach parents how to use visual prompts to help their child improve their speech sound production. SLP's can "coach" parents and teach certain evidenced based strategies while they play with their children. Following the session the SLP will provide feedback for what went well in the session and what needs improvement in regards to the implementation of strategies.
Second, online speech therapy can be done in the privacy and comfort of home on your own schedule. At Universal Speech Therapy we provide after school hours so that your child won't miss important instructional time in the classroom to attend speech therapy. Universal Speech Therapy provides individual sessions, as well as, group sessions based on our client's needs. As an online speech therapy provider we are not inundated with mounds of paperwork, duties or large, unmanageable caseloads. We are not forced to work with large groups of students because of high caseload numbers, therefore, speech therapy is not watered down and our clients can make progress quicker.
Third, there is no traveling to a clinic and getting stuck in traffic or the stress in going out in dangerous weather conditions. In addition, there is less money spent on gas! (and we all know the price of gas these days!). Given the easy access to services online, there are fewer appointments that need to be canceled and therefore, quicker progress toward goals.
Fourth, the computer is a built in motivator for many children! Most children enjoy online games and activities provided by various websites including, Boom Learning, ABCYA, Toy Theatre, Pink Cat Games, Ultimate SLP, Ed Puzzle, YouTube, Epic Books and Read Works.
For clients who have difficulty attending and completing non preferred tasks, online sites provide sticker charts, visual schedules, marble jars, and visual timers. Clients are able to interact using a mouse to move a game piece around a board game, build a puzzle, make a potato head or color!