Myth #1: Teletherapy is not an adequate substitute for onsite therapy
There is a myth that online speech therapy is somehow inferior when compared to face-to-face speech therapy. However, there is no evidence in the research supporting this assertion.
Over the past twenty years, the numerous studies that have been conducted, most notably by The Mayo Clinic and Kent State University, have shown that online speech therapy is on a par with on-site therapy. What’s more, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) independently have corroborated and endorsed those findings as well.
What must be understood is that the online venue and the wondrous digital tools utilized by clinicians aren’t meant to replace the one-on-one therapeutical interaction between clinician and child. They are merely available to enhance it. Speech therapy was initially designed and is intended to remain within the domain of the therapist working intimately with the child; never to be given over to digital substitutes.
Studies aside, ask the clients, the kids, what they think of online speech therapy. Having experienced the wonders of digital technology from a tender age, they love online video interactions. Their motivation, enthusiasm, and success say it all.
Myth #2: The online modality compromises the client’s privacy
There are voices out there complaining that the risk of compromising client confidentiality and their private information undermines the many benefits mentioned above. Their objection goes something like this. “Being that technology in general, and electronic communications in particular, are more vulnerable to be exploited, the privacy of clients will more likely be exposed.”
And the truth is that they are correct. Being worried about privacy leaks and hacks in the online transmission of information is a legitimate concern. Just look at how the field of cybersecurity continues to explode and grow in sophistication. Take something as simple as email. There is no way to ensure complete safety and confidentiality.
But to focus on the online venue is to miss the point. To be human means that privacy isn’t guaranteed. People are people, and there are plenty of security breaches out there in the “offline world” as well. It’s always been that way, and it will always be that way. So Is it reasonable to institute a standard for the “online world” that is unattainable in the “offline world?
In other words, the privacy concern isn’t really about “online” but is much broader than most people realize. It often boils down to adherence to regulations that have been established to protect client privacy. So what is a responsible caring school administrator to do?
The only answer is to work with a high-quality, reputable agency that can assure that all of the industry regulations of privacy are being followed and that everything is being done to satisfy all HIPAA, FERPA and COPPA standards ensuring the confidentiality of all sessions and data.
Bottom line, receiving speech therapy online is no riskier than face-to-face. Both are very confidential; neither is 100% perfect. So when you consider the many benefits of teletherapy and weigh them against your confidentiality concerns, rest assured that you are probably much safer than you think.
Myth #3: The technology is vulnerable and untrustworthy
A significant objection to, or let’s face it, “fear,” of online speech therapy is that since it is computer-based, the entire success or failure of the session rises or falls on the flawless performance of the technology. And many responsible school administrators ask, “How can I take that risk with my students?”
While this fear indeed indicates the concern and profound sense of responsibility of the administrator, at the same time it also reveals a considerable misunderstanding of the technology itself, as well as the care taken by quality online agencies in assuring the smooth delivery of the therapy.
Truthfully the technical requirements are relatively modest compared to the many other online activities that most of us engage in daily. Video communication only requires the use of a webcam, video conferencing software, secure web-based programs, a headset or speakers and an internet connection.
And yet that “fear” often boils down to one thing- connectivity. If anything could jeopardize the session, it is weak or erratic connectivity. To mollify that fear, consider some of the following factors in determining an appropriate connection strategy:
If the download speed is calibrated correctly, the connection should be optimal for the session and screen sharing. As a precaution, establishing an alternative connection (e.g., telephone, e-mail) enables troubleshooting the connection or rescheduling the session. Also, a hard-wired connection is optimal in a shared Wi-Fi environment.
Myth #4: Online speech therapy compromises client engagement
Many schools considering online speech therapy are scared away by the fear that online speech therapy will compromise student engagement during the session. Is there a way to ameliorate this concern? More specifically, what can a speech therapist do to ensure the high-quality session that online therapy is designed to provide?
Truthfully many of the problems afflicting client engagement in the online venue are unrelated to the fact that the therapy is delivered online. They exist even when the therapy is face-to-face. And many of these challenges can be solved by following some simple guidelines that will enhance client engagement.
To name but a few, these guidelines include removing distractions at the outset of the session, taking short breaks, connecting with the child on a personal level, keeping the activities relevant to the skills being worked on, and supplying heavy doses of positive reinforcement.
Some have mentioned that the lack of direct eye contact is a problem. But it need not be. As long as both the SLP and the client look directly into the camera, there will be a more natural interaction between therapist and client.
Alternatively, the online venue can often help to engage the student. For some kids, it is easier to focus on the computer than when the therapist is in the room. Distractions such as the way the therapist is sitting or peripheral movements don’t exist during when the therapy is delivered online.
And of course, the plethora of games, video interactions and imaginative digital learning creations afforded by the online venue assures that the student will enjoy an endless array of exciting choices which will enhance engagement in the therapy.