Online Speech Therapy4 MINUTE READ

Does Online Speech Therapy Work as Well as In-Person Therapy?

More and more people who need speech therapy are turning to teletherapy, or online speech therapy.

Connecting with a licensed speech-language pathologist from the comfort of your own home, on your own schedule, provides convenience and flexibility that can't be found in a traditional practice-based setting. It also allows parents to be more involved their child’s progress, which can be difficult if speech therapy happens at school or in a clinic.

One common question about online speech therapy is whether it’s as effective as in-person therapy. Does online therapy work as well as in-person speech therapy?

Let’s take a look at the research.

Research supports online speech therapy

Extensive research has been done on the effectiveness and outcomes of teletherapy for speech-language disorders. The results are clear: Done properly, online speech therapy is effective.

Look no further than the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), which is a professional credentialing association with over 200,000 members and affiliates, including speech-language pathologists. Based on a strong body of evidence, ASHA has recognized teletherapy as a valid means of service delivery for speech and language disorders. 

One of the landmark studies that supports these findings was conducted in 2011 by Kent State University researchers. They compared school students receiving speech language therapy in a traditional setting to those receiving teletherapy. There were two groups of students: the first group received conventional therapy for four months, then teletherapy for four months. The second group did the opposite, first receiving teletherapy, then traditional therapy. 

The researchers closely monitored the students. Outcome measures included how much the students progressed and their overall satisfaction with both delivery models. 

The results were conclusive: "Student progress reports indicated that the children made similar progress during the study whichever treatment method was used. There was no significant difference in GFTA-2 (Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation) scores between students in the two treatment groups.”

Note: The GFTA-2 is the most popular articulation test available for individuals from early childhood to adult. 

Satisfaction surveys showed that the students and parents overwhelmingly supported the teletherapy service delivery model.

One advantage of online speech therapy mentioned in the study was overall satisfaction. Surveys showed that the students and parents overwhelmingly supported the teletherapy service delivery model.

In another study, the Ohio Department of Public Health was looking for a way to combat a shortage of speech therapists in the state. They funded a pilot on teletherapy for speech-language pathology services. 

Study participants were recruited from two elementary schools in a rural Ohio school district. The school district had assigned one elementary building to be staffed by the teletherapy speech therapists, and the second to be staffed by in-person speech therapists. Progress was measured using pre- and post-intervention scores on the GFTA-2.

Students in the telehealth group made significant improvement in speech sound production. This result is similar to the improvement noted in the traditional side-by-side group.

Following intervention, students in the telehealth group made significant improvement in speech sound production as measured by change in scores on the GFTA-2. This result is similar to the improvement noted in the traditional side-by-side group.

Other studies have looked at how well online speech therapy works for adults. Research shows that it works just as well as in-person therapy. For example, studies show that online speech therapy is effective and reliable for adults with aphasia and dysarthria.

Of course, there are situations where in-person therapy is best for the client. But for many adults, online speech therapy can be just as helpful–with some added benefits, too.

What makes online speech therapy successful?

Online speech therapy is quickly gaining popularity for several reasons. A primary one is that it’s proven to be just as effective as in-person therapy. But success isn't based only on the method of therapy. It also depends on the professional delivering it. That’s why finding the right speech therapist who meets your unique needs is so important.

If you decide on online speech therapy for your child, make sure you find a professional who’s experienced with this delivery method. Beyond providing excellent care, online speech therapists should be skilled at keeping children engaged in a virtual environment. They use different techniques to keep children's attention, such as playing fun computer games or giving your child remote access to draw on a virtual whiteboard.

Remember, one of the biggest benefits of online speech therapy is that it takes place in the comfort and familiarity of the child's home. Your speech therapist should encourage you and your child to bring favorite toys, games, or books to the session.

When you attend speech therapy alongside your child, you learn techniques for practicing with them at home, between sessions--which will lead to faster progress!

Of course, for many children, especially toddlers, we'd never expect them to pay attention to a screen for 30 minutes. That's why caregiver involvement is so important--and online speech therapy makes it easy! When you attend sessions alongside your child, you learn techniques and tips for practicing speech and language with them at home, between sessions--which will lead to faster progress.

This approach is called parent coaching, and it should be a central focus when speech therapy is delivered online.

Research supports the importance of parent involvement in speech therapy

Parent coaching has proven results. For example, one study conducted by two researchers from Vanderbilt University looked at how well “parent-implemented intervention” worked among groups of parents trained to promote their child’s communication. Here were some key results:

  • Parents were able to understand the strategies taught by the speech therapists and use them with their child. As a result, children showed improvement in their verbal and nonverbal communication skills, including understanding, vocabulary, grammar, and how often they communicated.

  • Parents were just as effective at helping their child as speech therapists were. In fact, when it came to understanding language and grammar, parents were actually more effective than their therapists.

  • Children with a variety of language difficulties, including language impairment, autism, and developmental delay, also made substantial progress when their parents were involved.

As this and other studies show, empowering caregivers to work directly with their children can significantly improve their child’s speech-language skills. And online speech therapy makes it easy for parents and caregivers to get involved!

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