Since CATTS started online therapy, we had a few frequently asked questions about the process of Online Speech Therapy and what to expect.
We’re going to answer some of the questions here.
Is there a difference between Online therapy, or tele therapy?
No, they’re all the same thing. If you hear the terms “Online therapy”, “Tele therapy”, “Tele practice”, “Virtual therapy”, “Remote therapy” – it is the exact same thing. It is the service, provided by a qualified professional, delivered over the internet, instead of in the room with you.
I am distrustful of new things, this is too new.
Online therapy has been around for more than 10 years, but 2020 has pushed that to centre stage. CATTS has been offering online therapy for years, however it usually was at client’s request if they could not make it into clinic. Broadband (or lack therof) in many parts of the country also made it not viable until recently. In 2020, this slow transition across all industries (not just healthcare) was given an unforseen necessary boost. Now, we are at the same adoption stage at the end of 2020, that otherwise would have taken maybe 10-15 years to catch up.
Do people like it?
Yes. The technology used has been so convenient for the parents we work with, the children we work with, and the adults we work with. It is time-saving, it saves on travel, it is lots of fun, and it is a really safe way to do therapy. Our client feedback supports what the research is telling us about the success of tele therapy. Our parents have been saying that they found it much better than they ever dreamed of. Our kids we work with are so excited about doing their therapy sessions and say it’s a lot of fun. Our adult clients are telling us that it’s even more convenient than face to face. So they actually prefer it to face to face it.
How does online therapy work with young children?
So children under four. It works very similar to face to face therapy. The speech and language therapist prepares lots of fun activities that help a child engage into that session. We also incorporate some movement activities, some games. We never expect a child to sit in front of that computer quietly for half an hour, because you wouldn’t expect that in face to face therapy either. You can see a quick video of how we engage kids (and sometimes adults) online here. There are lots of different ways we can use green screen for speech activities. It looks like magic because the kids don’t see all the tricks behind the therapist that they don’t know about. That said, some older kids 7-8 years onwards get a kick out of the behind the scenes video. So when we do all these activities, and we use all the technology to our advantage, the main idea is to make online therapy really fun, really engaging for children. And to be honest, it’s a way to actually use more things than we would be able to use in face to face. So in a lot of ways it’s even better, and will be getting better still as the companies who publish the tools that Speech therapists use are creating more and more things for online therapist to work with.
How do I keep my child engaged online?
It is the speech and language therapist’s responsibility to make it as fun and engaging as possible. Not mom, not dad, or the teacher or SNA who is assisting. The only thing you need to do is to make sure the person is physically safe, and that there is no one else in the room that is not required to assist the individual. It is their therapy time, so the focus is all on them. If you have a child who can attend for 2 or 3 minutes, then needs a minute or two to play with a toy or other reward item, that is planned with the therapist in advance. Sometimes, you may need to hide the desired reward from view till needed, other times not. You know your child best, and we plan with you how to make the sessions work. We often have young kids who may have diagnoses which mean they cannot attend for even short periods of time. Again, we follow where the child wants to go. The disadvantage of being in clinic is that the kid is ‘stuck there’, and if there is something they want, and it isn’t available, it can be a problem. As long as the device you use is portable, if your child wants to sit and play with a favourite toy as that is what he feels he needs right then, then the phone/tablet/laptop with the therapist on the other end goes with, and the therapist will adjust the session plan accordingly.
I am not 100% comfortable with someone being able to see inside my house (even virtually).
Believe us, the therapist is more focused on your child and the therapy session than to admire the décor. With regards to children’s behaviour or what they want to do on camera – it will be very hard to surprise the therapist. They are at home, this is usually their comfort zone, so they feel more free to be themselves. That’s great!
What is Parent coaching?
This is simply another way we help engage children. This is exactly similar to what we do in face to face therapy. The reason why we use parent coaching and involve parents, is to help with progress because like we have when we do a physio and we have to do the exercises at home, if you don’t do your exercises, you’re not going to see the progress over time. Speech and language therapy is the same.
We can’t see that same progress by just doing a therapy session for a half an hour a week, or half an hour every two weeks. We’re going to see the progress by the practice being done at home every day. And the only person who can help with that daily practice is the parent. So why do we need the parent to help engage the child?
The difference with face to face, and online therapy, is a parent is going to be our eyes and our hands to help make this as engaging and as fun as possible. Now we, as speech and language therapists, help the parent prepare for that. We might tell them what kind of activities to prepare for the session. We might prepare water play activity for young children to really engage them in a fun activity they like to do at home. That will be on the floor, maybe in the kitchen, protecting the floor with some towels and a bowl, and then we’re going to have lots of fun together. And then the therapist coaches the parent through what kind of things they can talk about, and how they can work on the goals that was identified to work on this child’s speech and language goals along with the parent. T
hen what we do when we do parent coaching we really then help facilitate more learning by being really actively involving the parent, actively involving their child in a really fun activity. And then that way we get our progress.
Speech and language therapy is not a magic wand.
We really need to use everybody in that child’s environment to see that progress.
CATTS also have online workshops that we have available for all the families we work with. And we then give our parents access to those courses, to do them in between sessions, to learn about some of the strategies we use, and also being able to view some of the video examples of maybe how to use some of those strategies. Our parents have found that really helpful as another tool to help learn how to help support their child’s speech and language needs.
What about the technology?
All you need to be able to do an online therapy session at home is a laptop, a tablet, and if you’re really stuck, you can use a phone.
A phone is not ideal because the screen is so small, but in an emergency it’s definitely useful. You also don’t need to have a really strong wifi signal. All you need is something slow but stable. And if you can use Facebook, or you can do a Skype call at home, that will be a strong enough signal to do online therapy. The speech and language therapist is there to also help you sort out any of those technical gremlins, and we’ll be there to help you in how we can work on some of those settings. So we are there to help support you in getting those bugs solved so that you can have a really successful session. The other aspect of setting up for technology is how you set up the session at home. We don’t need to have a view of the house at all. What you can do is you can have the device facing the wall. You’re sitting in front of a wall, or where there’s a blank surface. That’s absolutely fine. And we’d be able to do all their activities there. For young children you might set them on a small table, or on the floor, that’s absolutely fine as well. Just so that they’re comfortable, and that they can focus on what we’re doing.
We look forward to working together with you doing online therapy.
Online therapy is really great because it’s convenient, you save on travel, and most importantly, it is lots of fun.