5 Very Unexpected Benefits of Virtual Speech Therapy

A blessing in disguise? Who knew I'd end up loving this teletherapy model of speech therapy!

In all my years of speech therapy experience, I had grown quite comfortable providing my services in home, at school, in clinics, while involving parents as much as possible. But when I peer back into those sessions, I see something I didn't realize was even happening. Parents were depending on me, far too much, to remedy their child's deficits. Even though I had made great efforts to make my sessions different than the traditional, sit-at-the-table-and-drill type speech therapy (because I work primarily with kids on the Autism spectrum who struggle to sit still), I still felt pressed to involve parents more. In fact, parents wanted to to be involved more, but we just didn't quite know how to do it!

Fast forward to our current COVID-19 situation, which has forced many of us out of our comfort zones, to learn how to provide services online to families, and WOW, I actually like it, if not love it! Working from a computer has had its benefits, that I had no idea were there. And instead of prolonged panic and lament over the change in routine, I am growing to embrace technology and the new parent roles it has unwrapped. Here are 5 reasons to celebrate our "new normal."

1. Especially when working with kids on the Autism Spectrum: aside from feeling overwhelmed by having to take on schooling demands at home, parents can be empowered to incorporate their child's therapy goals into their every day routine. What better time, but now, to learn how to work toward speech and language goals in their natural environment? I use methods from DIR Floortime already in my therapy sessions, which is highly focused on following the child's lead and coaching parents to be their child's main play partner. Speech therapy doesn't have to be yet another task to add to your already overwhelming quarantine routine! For help setting up goals that are developmental and natural for your child, please don't hesitate to reach out to me!

2. More time! Without the need to drive to and from work, clients' homes, and my own family's school, sports, sessions...we have stumbled upon a huge increase in time in our days. This opens up so many more session times for online sessions. Families and I can be more flexible with last minute changes, making it easier to plan make ups. And hey, more time with my family? I'll gladly accept lunch breaks with my toddler and play time with my kids in between clients.

3. Creativity Abounds. Having access to so many awesome online games, worksheets, activities, ideas has been great! Most have already been in existence, but now I've had no choice but to search the web for ideas. And I'm loving the extensive options out there. It's taken a few extra minutes to plan sessions geared for online learning, rather than using toys/books/printouts, but I'm actually feeling less limited in a way. Once again, recommending these options to parents to incorporate at home, really empowers them and promotes carry over of skills outside of therapy sessions. Here are a few sites I've been using with my students:

- Teacherspayteachers.com




4. Motivation: I find that most kids enjoy technology, and actually can't seem to get enough of it. So for some students, being able to look at a screen, play computer games, and use their iPad or Chromebook, has been great motivation. It's been a welcomed change from the traditional worksheets, flashcards, and toys. And although I personally miss seeing and playing with the kids in person at times, this generation of learners are very comfortable to interact with me over the web. In fact, they are often better at using the platforms and online games than me! Their motivation also increases the chances that they'll practice the same games/activities at home on their own time. Parents can use technology as motivation to work on speech goals as well as academics.

5. Parents feel better informed and aware of their child's therapy plan: Most of my clients have expressed how they prefer knowing what their child is working toward, the methods used, and to be able to speak with me each session. For the students I see online, whom I'd normally work with at a school setting, parents are now able to be part of their child's sessions. They are able to ask me questions, get parent coaching and observe sessions as they occur. I prefer their involvement as well, as it makes progress happen more quickly when parents are able to carry over therapy tasks at home.

So, I welcome this surprising new way of providing speech therapy to my clients! I hope you are also reassured that there are positives in this forced change in therapy settings. And when this is all over, I may actually continue offering teletherapy sessions, as it doesn't limit my services to my local area, but opens up my ability to help children from all over the world!

Amanda Harpst, M.S. CCC-SLP specializes in coaching parents and developing home programs that promote language development and social-emotional skills in children with Autism and other delays.

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