Why our industry needs more teletherapy
Teletherapy has been a part of my practice for the last five years. And I’ve seen how it has helped me grow my practice and bring therapy to underserved areas.
There is so much value in teletherapy, not just for us as therapist but for our clients. Talking with therapists, special ed directors, hospitals and parents, I gained a greater understanding of just how much our industry needs more teletherapy. Over 53% of schools and 35% of hospitals report a shortage in speech therapists.
The struggle is real.
- More therapy is needed in rural areas. It isn’t just rural areas where there’s a shortage, but this is where the effects are seen the greatest. Special Ed directors struggle filling positions and have to get very creative when it comes to providing the needed services to their students.
- Reduce time (and money) spent on traveling. Whether you’re working for a school district, home health or a private clinic, travel can be a huge burden. And not just for you as a clinician, but for the parent shuttling the kids from one commitment to the next.
- Finding therapists with the right experience. Matching up the right experience with the specific disorders is challenging, particularly in rural areas but also in metropolitan area. We can’t be experts in everything…the more teletherapy there is the greater opportunity to specialize and provide the right services to those who need it.
Like everything else, telepractice has its challenges.
Just like the traditional face-to-face model, there are challenges within telepractice. While these challenges typically aren’t enough to scare away the participants, it’s good to be aware of them so you know what you’re getting into and can help prepare the client, teacher, or parent if you choose to do teletherapy.
Challenge: Clients must be able to sustain attention.
For some groups of clients, including those on the spectrum, teletherapy has actually proven to be easier for kids, etc. They’ve grown up with technology and are comfortable with it. But there are groups where this deems especially challenging; i.e. younger children, ADD/ADHD, those not familiar with technology, etc.
- Know your clients and their limits.
- Talk to parents, teachers, and loved ones to understand potential limitations of client.
- Create a plan (that would test/slowly introduce the client) to see if teletherapy is a fit.
Challenge: They must be able to engage in technology.
For the younger generation it’s usually not an issue, but for the elderly or even youngest of kids they may not be able to manage an online session.
- Have a parent, para, or caregiver present to assist and provide caregiver training.
Challenge (for schools): Some students require help and need a para present.
While this is a challenge for some schools, most are willing to get creative to find a solution that allows them to provide service for their students.
- Brainstorm possible solutions with Special Ed directors or teachers.
- Communicate with schools early enough so they can hire an extra para or arrange schedules with office staff or aides.
Challenge: A reliable internet connection is needed.
For those living in a rural area, this isn’t always a given. No matter what online platform is used to provide service, if the internet is not high-speed the experience can be frustrating for both parties.
- Tell school districts about Education Superhighway, a non-profit that works with schools and state governors to help them get funding for broadband internet.
Benefits outweigh the challenges–so let’s move forward.
There will always be doubts and worries when trying something new. Trust me, you’re not alone. This is something you can do–and if it interests you, you should do! People need you and the service you provide.
More and more resources are becoming available as awareness grows. Here are a few places you can get involved and learn more.
- ASHA SIG 18, Telepractice
- Telepractice for SLPs (FB Group)
- SLP Telepractice Collaboration (FB Group)
- Teletherapy Materials for SLPs (FB Group)
- Virtual Speech Therapy (Twitter)
Take some time to get involved in the conversations. You’ll feel more confident when you start collaborating with people who are actively practicing. You’ve got this! It’s an avenue that will help you expand your practice and help more clients!
Mckell Smith MS,CCC-SLP
CEO and Founder of theraV