What does “real telepractice progress” mean? While it’s a tough question to answer as there may be numerous variables, nonetheless, neither therapists nor parents should settle for limited progress without examining what is occurring. It doesn’t necessarily mean that slow progress means that the speech therapy is “ineffective,” but it does beg the following questions.
1. Is the diagnosis correct?
2. Are there other problems besides the speech problem such as attention or behavioral issues?
3. Is the frequency and intensity of therapy calibrated correctly for this child?
4. Is there appropriate follow through happening at home?
If after asking these questions and similar ones, and after having taken the appropriate actions as well, the child continues to make slow progress, it may be time to look in an entirely different direction– inward! In other words, it may be prudent to examine more carefully your telepractice strategy and tactics. Perhaps it is you, the therapist, that needs to make a change.
1 - Reset Expectations
Many of us when we (finally) decide to lose some weight want immediate, even instantaneous results. But unfortunately, that just isn’t the way that weight loss works (as those who have tried can attest to). Telepractice is no different. Don’t look at this as a sprint but rather as a marathon. Trust that the child will improve, perhaps not today or tomorrow, but it will happen.
2 - Stop Working and Start Playing!
When you see that the kid is becoming frustrated and well on the way to a meltdown, it’s high time to ease off the work and ease on the play. Forget (at least for now) the “plan” and find a way to engage your student in “play” instead. And if possible “play” it the child's way, not yours. Abandon those expectations and instead restore your rapport through calm and tranquility.
3 - Find the Telepractice Threshold
Excellent telepractice practitioners seem to have a knack for knowing how to engage their students, maintain their motivation and attention effectively, and elicit those responses that foster communication. Seasoned clinicians are always manipulating or adjusting situations to empower the child's sense of control while working toward a particular goal.
Ask yourself, “What is it about an excellent telepractice session that appears so effortless and enjoyable?”. The answer- through trial and error, the clinician has discovered the child’s stress tolerance and works ever so effortlessly with it. Finding that threshold is an art. And it may vary from one child to the next, or even with the same child on a different day.
4 - Change Your Mindset
When engaged in telepractice, many clinicians feel undue pressure to improve the child’s speaking almost immediately. You feel the need to demonstrate your competence, capable of providing effective treatment. However, this can backfire and be stressful. Relax, take a deep breath, and smile. When kids are having fun and relaxed, they communicate better.
5 - Slow Down!
When we are eager to see progress, we speak and move faster invariably putting pressure on the child. Kids process language slower than adults and those with delays process even slower than other kids. Talk slower and interject pauses here and there This is turn will also slow down your physical movements which will ease the pressure. Put simply, Chill out!
It May Not be as Tough as You Think
So if your student seems to be stuck in a rut, just not progressing the way she should, it may be time to step back, take a few deep breaths, and pause. Does the problem reside in your student or in you? Either way, most problems have solutions; some of them much simpler than it may appear. Just remember that insights and adjustments may be part of the process itself.