Telepractice is slowly becoming a household word in the world of Speech Therapy. The online venue has revolutionized the way therapy is delivered. But perhaps we are too cavalier regarding a seemingly critical liability of telepractice - reduced client engagement.
It is well documented that removing face to face contact in communication is a significant handicap in conveying meaning. Scientists say that “only 7% of communication is about the words, while 38% is tone of voice and 55% body language.” So it would seem to be a no-brainer that telepractice compromises client engagement.
Is Telepractice the culprit?
The truth is that most therapists have confronted the challenge of maintaining the engagement of their client even when the therapy is face to face. To be fair, most of the time that clients are disengaged it is entirely unrelated to the online venue. Telepractice isn’t the problem. If so, what can the therapist do to mitigate these problems?
Establishing Rapport is Critical
Before beginning with a new child, it is crucial for the therapist to conduct a short interview with the parent that contains essentially three fundamental questions.
- Does your child have a problem relating to new people, particularly adults?
- Does your child have a problem staying on task?
- How does your child handle frustration?
And once the session begins, it is essential to continuously promote a successful therapeutic experience. One of the best ways to do this is providing positive reinforcement and praise. But this must be done with great care.
Some Rules for Positive Reinforcement and Praise
- Don’t praise in general but be very specific
- Praise the process not the result
- Target your praise for just the right moment
- Hone in on the child’s strengths and weaknesses
- Don’t overdo the praise or it will become disingenuous and meaningless
But what about when telepractice is the cause?
While most common of the common engagement difficulties are unrelated to telepractice, some only exist because of the online venue. What can be done to remove those problems?
Therapist Interaction Strategies and Tips
- Begin sessions by asking the client to remove any distractions
- Alternate ways in which the child participates by switching between activities
- Take the client’s temperature often
- Make a personal connection with the child to enhance comfort with the therapist
- Ask the kid how the session went; what should be repeated or eliminated
- Take little breaks to give the child time to stretch, or go the bathroom
Telepractice has its advantages also
1. Reduces Distractions
For many clients, it is easier to focus on the computer than when the therapist is in the same room. Distractions such as disruptive clothing, or peripheral movements in the room are not concerns in teletherapy.
2. Less Intimidating
Children often find the online experience less intimidating than in-person interactions. Telepractice can increase the effectiveness of the session.
3. Games and Much Much More
There is an ever-expanding universe of websites and apps expressly designed for providing materials, games, exercises, you name it, for practitioners. This assortment assures a constant array of fresh and exciting choices, enhancing engagement.
4. It’s a Brave New World
But perhaps more significant is that our children are growing up in a world defined by technology. They’re comfortable with computers and enjoy the fun, game-based activities afforded by telepractice.