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Virtual Therapy

April 30, 2018

 When adults think of Speech Therapy, they sometimes can't imagine how it would work over the computer, but ask a child and they will light up and say, "I want to do Speech over the computer!" For children, using the computer is second nature. They have grown up with Skype and FaceTime so it feels very natural to them to meet with their Speech Therapist over the computer.

 

When I first started working with children virtually about 10 years ago, I didn't know what to expect. The school I contracted with to provide Teletherapy wanted onsite services, but they were located so far away, they couldn't find anyone willing to move or drive so far. I started with a combination of onsite and Teletherapy services, and back then the internet was much slower and video conferencing over the computer was very new. We found a program that could desktop share, but it had to be loaded separately from the video conferencing program. The whole thing was pretty glitchy. There would be pauses and times we couldn't see each other, or times we couldn't hear each other, but the most remarkable part of it was that the kids didn't seem to mind at all! They just picked up where we left off - without even blinking!

 

I started out by using materials I was familiar with, like flashcards and drills, but I soon realized the the internet was full of amazing materials in the form of games. PBSkids.org or Bitesize (bbc.com/education) alone have amazing educational games that target vocabulary, grammar and sounds in words, and they are way more fun for kids than flashcards or drills! I found my students paid more attention and for longer when doing therapy over the computer. My kiddos that struggled with attention when I was onsite, were completely engaged when I worked with them virtually. 

 

Now video conferencing has become mainstream and so much better and faster, as is access to educational online materials. Children can be given access to the mouse and keyboard, can draw pictures, click on objects, give the therapist directions on what to draw or click on (this is a great language activity), see the therapist and themselves in the video "mirror" to practice tongue placement and so much more.

 

I still find kids more engaged when participating in online therapy than onsite therapy, and studies do show that children reach their goals in a comparable amount of time using virtual therapy vs. onsite therapy. 

 

 

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