Nowadays it seems like the world has gone virtual–and that includes speech therapy.
The idea of online speech therapy might feel a little foreign. After all, when we think of speech therapy, most of us picture sitting across from a therapist in a clinic or office. But with online therapy, or teletherapy, you can still meet face-to-face with a licensed speech-language pathologist. Through the use of video chatting technology, such as Zoom, online speech therapy can feel as if you’re in the same room as your therapist, even if they’re hundreds of miles away! Most important, research shows online speech therapy is just as effective as in-person treatment for many types of issues.
Let’s explore how virtual speech therapy works and some of the reasons so many people choose it.
Why more people are turning to virtual speech therapy
There are many reasons online speech therapy is becoming a more popular choice, both for children and for adults.
Online speech therapy allows parents and caregivers to easily fit therapy into their schedule so they can attend sessions and stay up-to-date on their child’s progress. It’s impossible to overstate how important your involvement is to helping your child reach their communication goals.
Your speech therapist isn’t simply your child’s teacher; they’re also your coach. They can help you learn the same techniques and language-building skills used during sessions so you can apply them at home throughout your child’s everyday life. Research has shown that the more practice happens at home, the more progress children make.
When speech therapy is delivered virtually, not only does it give you greater scheduling flexibility, it gives your therapist a window into your child’s home environment. They can incorporate your child’s favorite household items into therapy, like toys and games. It’s also easier for caregivers to stay in communication and build a strong relationship with their therapist online versus in other settings.
Convenience is another huge factor. And convenience means different things to different people.
Some people may not have access to a local speech therapist near their home, or a speech therapist that specializes in their area of need. Using online technology allows them to get services they otherwise couldn’t easily receive.
Then there’s the time factor. Between work, school, errands, and just everyday life, fitting speech therapy into your schedule may be tricky. Many online speech therapy companies offer flexible scheduling to fit your desired days and times. Plus, there’s no commute time with teletherapy–just the few minutes it takes to walk to a quiet room in your house and log on. How easy is that?
Another aspect of online speech therapy that many people appreciate is the cost. Especially if you don’t have health insurance, or your insurance doesn’t cover speech therapy services, online speech therapy can be an affordable way to get the treatment you need. Online speech therapists don’t have to pay many of the traditional costs of running a clinic, like rent, overhead, and certain administrative costs. These costs can be passed down to families, which often makes online therapy considerably more affordable.
How does online speech therapy work?
First, you’ll be matched to a speech-language pathologist. Before the first appointment, you’ll likely be sent a medical history form to fill out so your speech therapist can learn more about the person seeking therapy.
You will receive an online link and log onto your first therapy session via whichever video conferencing platform the company uses. Zoom is a popular choice, and by now, many people are quite familiar with it!
If possible, it’s best to find a quiet spot in your home for the session. Try to choose a place where you won’t be distracted. When you log into the video chat, your speech therapist will greet you with a friendly face, just as if you were walking through their office door.
Once your therapy program begins, sessions will likely take place once or twice a week. Between sessions, your therapist will likely assign activities you can use to practice your speech at home.
Many speech sessions are about 30 minutes long. The speech therapist will use these 30 minutes to help you or your child progress toward better communication.
You may be wondering how this happens. So let’s dive into exactly what a speech therapy session looks like!
What happens during an online speech therapy session
Your first teletherapy session will be an assessment of your or your child’s communication abilities. This will give the speech therapist a good picture of current strengths and weaknesses. The evaluation may feel a bit like a test, but remember, the goal is to help your speech therapist know exactly where to start!
The speech therapist will also talk with you about why you’re seeking speech therapy. This is the perfect time to bring up what you’re hoping speech therapy can address, as well as any questions you have!
Once the evaluation is complete, your speech therapist will create measurable goals to target over the next few months. These will be specific to your or your child’s current needs. The measurable aspect of these goals is important, as it enables your therapist to track and monitor the progress being made.
During sessions, your therapist will select engaging activities to do that target these goals. For young children, games and hands-on activities work well. During the session, a caregiver should be nearby to help and support the child. The therapist will likely use your child’s own items and toys you already have on hand. They’ll show you how to use them for speech-related purposes.
One benefit of online speech therapy for older children is the ability to use the internet! Speech therapists have access to a variety of games and websites that can help make therapy fun. Whether your child loves Battleship or Go Fish, there’s bound to be something that will make therapy more engaging for them.
For adult clients, speech therapy may be a little more straightforward. Speech production tasks, public speaking skills, and conversational skills can be easily addressed by simply speaking one-on-one with your therapist. In this way, there is minimal difference between in-person and online speech therapy!
Why do so many people prefer online speech therapy?
There are many reasons people prefer virtual speech therapy to in-person. In my experience, once families try it out, they’re hooked! It’s hard to beat the convenience, flexible scheduling, and affordability.
Not to mention, you’ll still form a strong relationship with your therapist. They may not be in the same room as you, let alone the same state! But speech therapists are able to help and connect with their clients just as effectively over the computer.
As a speech-language pathologist who treats children, I believe there is one particularly valuable aspect of online speech therapy. Your therapist will get to see your child in their home environment. You may not think this is a big deal, but trust me–it is! Therapists can observe the types of words and phrases children use to comment about their toys, surroundings, and everyday routines. This allows the therapist to provide natural opportunities to correct the child’s responses if needed.
The speech therapist can also easily teach you how to help your child at home. Home practice is a vital part of speech therapy. With online speech therapy, you’ll receive the most personalized home practice possible!
Ready to take the next step?
Whether you’re ready to schedule a session or simply want to learn more, there’s no reason to wait. On your journey to clearer, easier communication, online speech therapy may be the most effective way to get there.