Speech teletherapy continues to be an important way we deliver speech and language services to clients in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville and throughout Northeast Ohio. We launched teletherapy services for speech, occupational, ABA and physical therapy in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although government agencies are now beginning to distribute the vaccine, officials stress it’s not over yet and the U.S. is still breaking records for cases and deaths. We have resumed in-person therapies and school courses, but continue to offer teletherapy services as well.
In recent weeks, we’ve encountered some families who are curious about speech teletherapy, especially because they recognize it’s not only convenient and safe. However, they do have some concerns, most based on misconceptions about how it works. Can speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and ABA therapy really be effective over a screen? We can honestly answer: Yes.
Numerous studies observing telehealth interventions for kids with autism and other conditions found that speech teletherapy, occupational teletherapy and ABA teletherapy were equally as effective as those provided face-to-face. Recipients of both traditional, in-person therapy and telehealth make significant and similar improvements in their development goals.
As an added bonus, studies of families of young kids with autism found that parent competence and confidence rose significantly, thanks to teletherapy. Of course, we’ve always prioritized parent education and empowerment, but teletherapy offers a unique “window” into our techniques as therapists. This can translate to better carryover across various environments, which can mean faster progress for kids.
Top 5 Teletherapy Misconceptions
- My Child is Too Young. Some parents of young kids may understandably be reticent to allow their young child on a laptop or other screen for extended period of time. However, teletherapy isn’t really typical screen time. Teletherapy is all about the interaction. Even if we’re playing a virtual game, the therapist is in control and the goal is to get the child engaged, communicating, conversing. For younger kids especially, we focus a great deal on coaching parents on specialized techniques and activities designed to improve their kids’ skills.
- My child doesn’t have a long enough attention span. The reality is teletherapy isn’t all staring at a screen. We design our speech teletherapy sessions for multiple movement breaks and sensory input activities – just like we would an in-person session. We also have so many activities that can be selected just for your child to match his/her learning style and interests to keep them engaged – just as we would in an in-person session.
- Teletherapy is not as effective as in-person therapy. This just isn’t true. As we mentioned before, numerous large-sample, longitudinal studies have found occupational, ABA and speech teletherapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy. Kids make the same level of progress. Some kids even make more progress in teletherapy because their parent may be more involved, leading to more consistent carryover. Beyond that, teletherapy gives kids who might not otherwise be able to receive therapy (due to scheduling concerns, distance from clinic or compromised immune systems) access to services they might otherwise forego.
- Virtual therapy is too much screen time. Limiting screen time for kids is an admirable and worthwhile goal in this digital age. We applaud it. But again, virtual therapy is not the same as just watching a show or playing a video game. Kids who are participating in speech teletherapy are actively engaging their brains, practicing their social skills and learning new techniques. This is not the kind of static, unhealthy screen time from which you’d want to definitely limit for your kids.
- There’s no way to form a truly personal connection over a screen. Parents whose kids have been in therapy will know that it is essential for a child to build a rapport with their therapist. A connection keeps kids engaged, cooperative and learning. This can happen through a screen because we’re still essentially conversing “face-to-face,” and doing so on a regular basis. Sometimes kids feel even more at ease conversing over a screen than in-person, so that can lead to more progress for some.
If you have questions or concerns about speech teletherapy, our team at Therapy & Wellness Connection can help!
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Cleveland. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
The Efficacy of Telehealth-Delivered Speech and Language Intervention for Primary School-Age Children: A Systematic Review, Spring 2017, International Journal of Telerehabilitation