There are many in the educational world including School Administrators who believe that the advent and increasing usage of online speech therapy (telepractice) is an unfortunate development. They believe that aside from providing inferior therapy as compared to the traditional onsite model, this entire “substitute” is nothing more than a bunch of video games lacking any real educational or therapeutic value.
Whereas the concern that their students receive the best therapy possible is laudable, their perception of telepractice could be characterized as incomplete at best. However before responding to their criticism, let us first hear what speech therapy experts themselves have to say about telepractice.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 135,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists and speech-language pathologists. Based on the strong body of peer-reviewed research supporting telepractice as an effective method of delivering speech therapy service, ASHA recognizes telepractice as a valid means of service delivery.
Kent University Study
A 2011 study by Kent State University researchers compared students receiving traditional in-person therapy and those receiving telepractice in public school settings. They found that the outcomes for the telepractice group were equal or better than the in-person group, stating that:
“Students in both service models made significant improvements…with students in the telepractice group demonstrating a greater mastery of their Individual Education Plan (IEP) goals.”
Telepractice or On Site?
It goes without saying that neither ASHA nor The Kent University Study could make such unequivocal claims in support of telepractice would it be that telepractice is somehow inferior. So, bottom line, what's the difference between teletherapy and face to face therapy?
Depending on how you look at, perhaps a lot, or maybe not so much. Telepractice is simply a modality. Online modalities are just that: modalities. It just a method by which treatment is delivered. It's not a distinct "thing."
For better or for worse, the fact is that our children are growing up in a world increasingly defined by technology. They’re comfortable with computers and enjoy the fun, game-based activities afforded by telepractice. The uniqueness, and perhaps even the greatness, when offering the close therapist child interaction through the online venue, is the seamless integration of that personal touch and technology.
For those students who find it easier to focus on the computer than when the therapist is in the same room, telepractice is simply a no-brainer. Distractions such as the way the therapist is sitting, disruptive clothing, or outer movements in the room are simply not concerns in during teletherapy.
For the others who could succeed either way, telepractice offers a new dimension by drawing upon and capitalizing on the advantages provided by the ever-expanding universe of websites and apps expressly designed to providing materials, games, exercises for the children.
But never do these amazing digital tools replace the one-on-one therapeutical interaction between clinician and child. They are simply available to enhance it. Speech therapy was initially designed and is meant to remain within the domain of the therapist working intimately with child, never to be given over to digital substitutes.