Many schools considering online speech therapy (telepractice) are scared away by the fear that telepractice will compromise student engagement during the session.
Is there a way to ameliorate this concern? More specifically, what can a telepractice clinician do to ensure the high quality session that online therapy provides?
It’s Not Necessarily About Teletherapy
Truthfully many of the problems afflicting client engagement in the online venue are unrelated to telepractice. In fact they exist even when the therapy is face to face. And many of these challenges can be solved by following some simple guidelines.
Establishing Rapport is Critical
Before beginning, the therapist should interview the parent by asking 3 basic questions.
- Does your child have difficulty relating to new people, adults in particular?
- Is your child challenged in sustaining attention on a task?
- How does your child handle frustration?
Positive Reinforcement and Praise
As child development literature suggests, it is positive reinforcement such as praise that brings the best results. The therapist shouldn’t wait for a major breakthrough, but look for opportunities to applaud those little seemingly insignificant victories as well.
- Be Specific: Being specific helps the child attune to his or her special effort or skill, and motivates the child to replicate it in the future.
- Praise the Process: Praise hard work, perseverance, and resilience, even if the child failed. Praising the process encourages future continued effort.
- Be Selective: Praise is most effective and meaningful when targeted at moments when the child is able to go beyond his or her normal behavior. Don’t overdo it!
Sometimes it Might be About Teletherapy
As mentioned above, while most common “client engagement” problems are unrelated to the online venue, clearly some only exist or are exacerbated because the therapy is being delivered online. What can be done to enhance the online session?
Therapist Interaction Strategies and Tips
- Start the session by asking client to remove any distractions.
- Vary ways in which client participate by switching quickly between activities.
- Connect- Before beginning, ask the child what’s going on on in his/her life.
- Take short breaks allowing the child to stretch, go the bathroom, or just relax
- Relevance- Choose activities that help the child see why this skill is necessary.
- Share goals- Show progress to motivate the child to stay focused on success
Guess What? Teletherapy Actually Helps to Engage the Client
The online venue can actually 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 teletherapy.
Games and Much, Much, More
Since our children are growing up in a world defined by technology, they love online video interactions and digital learning. They enjoy the fun, game-based activities afforded by teletherapy.
In fact there is an ever-expanding universe of websites and apps geared to providing materials, games, exercises, you name it, for practitioners. This assures that the student will enjoy a constant array of exciting choices, enhancing engagement in the therapy.