SLPs and Telepractice Learning Curve while we flatten the curve
This post is for our fellow Speech Language Pathologists across Canada.
COVID-19 is here and most of us have already closed our physical clinics to help flatten the curve and protect the vulnerable in our population. While Andalusia Speech Therapy has been using teletherapy for a couple of years, a lot of SLPs need to transition ASAP and there is a learning curve.
We are sure you have all been doing a lot of research on the topic already. We don't know everything, but we can share our tips. A pandemic is a time for cooperation, not competition, and we want to support our colleagues across the nation.
Our main message is that you can do it! Your skills are transferable to virtual therapy and this is the time to jump in and learn how to help your clients remotely while everyone is in isolation.
Provider and Technology:
Software: We use OnCall Health
Internet: Ensure you have a good connection, and get a back up source for emergencies (i.e. hotspot to your phone if you need to in a pinch).
Webcam: Clinicians with a top, central webcam built-into their laptops can use that and laptop audio in most cases. Otherwise, we use this webcam: https://www.bestbuy.ca/en-ca/product/logitech-logitech-c922-pro-stream-1080p-hd-webcam-960-001087/10482652
Many, but not all clients, are suitable for online therapy. Here is a summary of our experience.
Articulation - Assessment and therapy possible for kids who are ~6 to 7 years old and up, barring attention difficulties. Younger than this needs significant parental support and parent training.
ASD - Assessment and parent training only.
Literacy - Assessment and therapy, but requires sufficient attention span from the child.
Fluency - Assessment, therapy and parent training possible.
Auditory Verbal Therapy - Assessment and parent training possible.
Cognitive Communication - With appropriate support, your cognitive communication clients CAN use teletherapy. They are more willing than you may think, give it a try and encourage them if they are nervous. They can really benefit and this can help reduce the feeling of isolation they may be experiencing at this time.
Fluency - Easy breezy.
Public Speaking - No problemo.
Accent - Amazing.
Voice - Assessment and therapy possible, not ideal for all clients, case by case screening required.
Aural Rehabilitation - Assessment and therapy possible with support on client end.
Be cool, there will be technical failures. In most cases, the client audio doesn't work. Test yourself out on friends first. In client audio case, usually ask them to log out and log back into your platform (the old 'did you try restarting?' trick). Ask them if anything else is plugged in (i.e earphones) and trying to unplug and replug those as well. Know how your platform can provide you technical support. In some cases, call the client and follow along with phone audio and online video if you need. Who cares, people are more understanding than you think. Worst case scenario, you reschedule. It's all good, you'll try again. This is a time for learning and understanding.
Eye contact. We know you'll be looking at their face on the screen, but try to periodically look directly into the webcam as that would be the equivalent of eye contact for an in-person context.
For kids, you don't have to figure out screen sharing all at once. Use games that you can use on your end and they participate with their voice (i.e. hangman, charades) or let them use games at home as small breaks from your session.
Visuals and Noise: Ensure your camera is facing straight, not angled up or tilted. Ensure your whole head, neck, and shoulders are visible and not cut off. Do not sit much further back, just the basics should be visible. Check your background to make sure it's simple and not distracting. Reduce background noise by closing doors. Don't forget to put your phone on silent!
We shared a blog post earlier this month about the benefits of teletherapy with some research references, check it out here if it helps spread the word about its effectiveness to your clients or helps you understand its benefits yourself as Speech Language Pathologists.
For articulation, our free worksheets are available online to share with families. Feel free to use them during your teletherapy sessions, we even have vowels we created to use!
This is a tough time. We hope this is helpful and will continue trying to support our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay safe everyone and happy teletherapy-ing!
Andalusia Speech Therapy has two Toronto speech therapy clinics and offers speech teletherapy to anywhere in the world. Contact us more for information.