The Benefits of Teletherapy
By Nicole Pounds, M.S. CCC-SLP
I am in the third week of my teletherapy journey (wow, how did time pass so quickly!!??) and I am loving it! I decided to make the switch to teletherapy because it would provide more flexibility for my family. Through DotCom Therapy, I am able to work part time from home. This allows me the ability to use my professional skill set but also spend more time at home with my family.
When I was hired on with DotCom Therapy, I began to anxiously await my first day. I wondered what doing therapy over the computer would be like. SLP friends had asked me things like "how do you control behavior?” "Will the child be engaged?” "How does this service delivery model really work?” and "Will you really feel like a part of the team?” These were all questions that I had too. I was nervous to see my first clients, but after my first few weeks, I am so glad that I branched out into this innovative faucet of our field. My first few weeks of teletherapy have been full of revelations and "aha” moments. I would like to share a few of those with you…
1. Teletherapy is just… therapy.
I was nervous before seeing my first clients. I sat down at the computer and up popped my first group: two smiling little boys with a sense of humor. They automatically put my nerves at ease when I began talking with them about their day and what they like to do. I was amazed at how easy it was to fall right back into using the skill set that I already have - analyzing their speech and picking up on subtle language difficulties. We ran through some articulation exercises and it was just like what I have always done as a speech-language pathologist. I almost forgot that I was on the other side of a screen.
2. The media platform is versatile and motivating.
Overall my students really love working with me over the computer. I haven’t had many behavior challenges because they are motivated to interact with the materials I am using via technology. My first challenge, however, came a few sessions into my first day. A little boy sat down who refused to engage with therapy. I had seen this before in students who don’t really like speech therapy because it can be difficult for them. What I would have done through a traditional therapy model was move close to the student and try to pick up on things he liked through play, but…I was on a computer; how do you do that through a screen? I began asking what he liked and he kept saying "I want to play the dice game.” The dice game!? What does that even mean? I didn’t have any dice, and at first wasn’t sure how to get any. However, I soon remembered that I had the internet! I quickly pulled up a webpage that rolled dice. The student loved it and was automatically engaged! It was then that I realized one of the beauties of teletherapy: being online connects you with unlimited resources so that you can quickly think on your feet to engage your students.
3. It’s easy to forget that you’re on a screen.
This statement goes both ways. It truly doesn’t feel like you’re on the other side of a computer screen (although I have noticed myself using a lot less hand sanitizer). The students seem to forget that you are not right there as well. I have one student that regularly invites me to see her perform and asks if I can put on the therapist she saw last year (forgetting that her previous therapist doesn’t work "in the same building as me”).
4. Teletherapy allows me to be the mom I want to be.
This was apparent from my very first day; I woke up that morning and got ready while my children slept. I ate breakfast with my husband, then got my children up and ready for their day. I walked them all out to the car and strapped my son in his car seat. Then I went inside, brewed a cup of coffee, and walked 10 steps down the hallway to my office. Over my lunch break that day I switched the laundry around and folded the load I pulled out of the dryer. Along with enabling me to keep up with some of the housework over my lunch break, working with DotCom Therapy also allows me the flexibility to work part time hours, do paperwork while my children nap, and cuts out travel time meaning that I can spend more time with my family.
5. Collaboration is what you make it.
One of the things I was worried about when I began work for DotCom Therapy was if I would feel like I am a part of the team. Over the last few weeks, I have found that collaboration is what you make it. I don’t have the option of running into a student’s teacher in the hallway, so I do have to be more intentional about collaboration, but I have not found this to be an issue. In a world that is so saturated with technology, I have my students’ team literally at my fingertips. At any time I can send an email to a teacher or service coordinator to ask questions or collaborate on goals. If I need a more in depth conversation, I can request meetings via the platform we use with the students. I am able to be a part of all IEP meetings and all decisions concerning the student via the same platform.
6. Teletherapy allows me to serve clients who are underserved but not undeserving.
DotCom Therapy partners with schools and clients that generally have a hard time gaining access to licensed therapists. Though these students/clients deserve to be treated by a licensed therapist, they are not always due to location or time. Imagine needing therapy services but not having access to a licensed speech-language pathologist at your school or not being able to provide transportation to the nearest speech therapy outpatient clinic which is an hour away. What if you work from 9-5 Monday through Friday so you skip out on therapy services that you or your child needs because you can’t afford losing your job? Insert DotCom Therapy. Our founder wanted to transcend difficulties of time and location; because of this, I am able to serve students who previously have not had access to a licensed therapist. I am able to provide high quality direct services to students and high quality indirect services through collaboration with their teachers and parents — and I don’t even have to leave home to do it!