Tele-practice can boost in-person treatment, during the pandemic and beyond

Our routines have changed drastically in light of the currently global pandemic. While many types of services are not feasible virtually, speech and language therapy continues to be available and recommended for many children during this time of social distancing – and SpeakAble’s video conferencing rooms feature some fun, interactive features that our kids are loving!

Some may be reluctant to buy-in to this ‘new’ service delivery model, however, speech-language pathologists have been using tele-practice since the 1970s as a tool to reach remote clients [1]. The efficacy of tele-practice has been widely studied across all ages and disorders, and the provincial and even international speech and language regulatory bodies continue to endorse the model [2].

It may take some getting used to for those accustomed to in-clinic or home visits, but ultimately, the model is just as fun and engaging and parents and children benefit alike.

Benefits for your child

You’ve been cooped up with your child for several weeks now, and while he or she may seem happy to be home with you indefinitely, it’s still normal to crave interactions with others. Individual therapy can provide your child with undivided focused attention and opportunity for socialization with anther familiar face. 

Let’s face it: most kids love screens, and tele-practice provides an occasion for them to interact and engage with a screen in an educational way.

Screen sharing is being used to mirror an iPad game, My Play Home, as a reinforcer.

Children undoubtedly risk falling behind and even regressing with their speech and language goals if treatment is put on pause indefinitely. Tele-practice gives your child a chance to not let their months of hard-earned progress (and your hard-earned money) go to waste.

The role of parents

Often, waiting for your child to finish speech therapy means getting some emails done, but this service delivery model necessitates the participation of a parent. A parent’s role is to adjust seating and camera positioning when necessary, to provide toys as reinforcers (such as bubbles, wind-up toys or Play Doh) during transitions between activities, or to give your child a sip water.

This requires active and uninterrupted cooperation and teamwork between parent and child. Another benefit is the flexibility of session length as we can offer shorter sessions with ease. 

And the stress of getting your child dressed and in the car to get to your appointment on time is nonexistent. 

How we make tele-practice fun

Tele-practice is fun and engaging and far from passive screen use. Rapport is easily maintained and can also be built through the platform. Your child’s speech-language pathologist can individualize activities to meet your child’s interests. The child in the video loves Pokémon and Super Mario and relevant reinforcing activities were presented through screen sharing to maintain his focus.

Screen-sharing can also be interactive, providing the child with simultaneous control of the whiteboard function to play Tic-Tac-Toe or colour along with the clinician.

Using our beloved pets in therapy is also a fan-favourite. Your child can introduce their cat to their clinician, share with them three things about their dog, or your SLP can use a guest appearance as a reward for good work at the end of the session.

Poppy Paull, SpeakAble’s unofficial mascot, has been a huge hit and regularly requested in sessions.  With the use of our furry friends, good old-fashioned toys, SpeakAble’s vast digital resource library, endless online activities (books, puzzles, colouring pages), the ability to mirror an iPad using the platform, and not to mention those dreamy starry backgrounds—the possibilities are endless.

The benefits of resuming your child’s therapy using this new service delivery model outweigh the alternative. SpeakAble has lowered the hourly rate for tele-practice during the pandemic to account for the financial strain of our families and promote continuity of care. Consider slowly introducing therapy back into your new routine. Please give us a call if you have any questions!

N.B. The child depicted is an actor, and a friend of the SpeakAble community whose parents have consented to the use of this video for instructional and promotional purposes. Protecting the privacy of our clients and families is a top priority and we take all possible measures to ensure the security of all digital sessions. The laws that protect privacy of medical information also apply to tele-practice, and information shared during tele-practice remains confidential. To read SpeakAble’s policy on tele-practice, security and privacy, please consult our document entitled: Informed Consent for Speech and Language Services via Tele-practice.

[1] Tomorrow’s Service Delivery Model: Telepractice & You Leah Soyars, B.Ed., Angela Simoneaux, B.A., Michaela DuBay, B. A., & Colleen M. O’Rourke, Ph.D. Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA

[2] The Informed SLP., March 13, 2020. April 2, 2020.

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