If you're a school administrator or a therapist wondering, "What is teletherapy?" you've come to the right place! Teletherapy and what it offers opens up an exciting world of possibilities both for you and for children across the globe. By the time you've finished this post, you'll know everything you need to about teletherapy and how to get started with it today.
1. What is Teletherapy?
Teletherapy, or telepractice as it's otherwise known, is the online delivery of therapy services via two-way video conferencing. Sessions are nearly identical to traditional speech sessions save for one major exception. Instead of sitting together in the same room, students and therapists interact via live video conferencing.
2. Is there a need for teletherapy?
In a word: Yes. Over 10% of America’s school-age population—between 6 and 7 million children—require special education; many of them requiring therapy. Statistical research reveals that there is a growing shortage of therapists to meet this demand, and this is increasing annually.
Further exacerbating the problem, these clinicians are unequally distributed geographically; many are concentrated in certain regions, leaving other areas with a shortage of available therapists. This worsening shortage, particularly in rural districts, makes it difficult for schools to provide adequately for many of the children who desperately need therapy services.
The shortage has increased the cost of therapy and put a heavy burden on already overstretched school budgets and personnel who must spend inordinate amounts of time and energy searching for and managing scarce therapists. In some cases, schools have fallen short of federal mandates. Teletherapy is the perfect solution to this painful and growing problem.
3. Does research show that teletherapy is effective?
Online therapy has been used successfully since the late 1990’s in tens of thousands of therapy sessions across the United States. It has been found to be an effective and appropriate treatment for speech disorders in 20 years of research by over 40 academic published peer-reviewed studies beginning with a landmark paper by the Mayo Clinic in 1997.
4. Does ASHA endorse teletherapy?
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has recognized telepractice as an appropriate method of service delivery since 2005. Based on the substantial body of peer-reviewed research supporting it as an effective way of delivering speech therapy service, ASHA has declared, "Telepractice is an appropriate model of service delivery for audiologists and speech-language pathologists."
5. How does teletherapy compare to traditional onsite therapy?
Greater access to high-quality therapists, anytime/anywhere scheduling, and high-tech tools yield equal or better outcomes compared to national norms for traditional speech therapy. These findings have been validated by recent research funded by the Department of Education. Also, teletherapy promotes a better match between child and clinician - making it easier to access therapists with appropriate linguistic or cultural backgrounds when required.
6. What is the technical setup for teletherapy?
Installation is simple and straightforward! A representative from the online agency will walk you through the process and provide the necessary support. All that is required is a computer, an internet connection, a webcam, and an audio headset. The confidentiality and privacy of all student data and secure information is protected by a reliable provider whose system is secure and encrypted per HIPAA and FERPA regulations.
7. Is teletherapy for everyone?
While study after study demonstrates the effectiveness of this excellent alternative, nevertheless some students will still benefit more from traditional on-site therapy. For example, online therapy is not the preferred option for students with extremely limited attention skills or alertness. In some instances, a “hybrid” option (combining on-site with online therapy) may be optimal.
8. Where will I find materials to provide teletherapy?
The good news is that there is an expanding universe of both websites and apps specifically geared to provide materials, games, exercises, you name it, for online therapy providers. The possibilities seem to be endless!
Truth be told, there is no way for any clinician to stay abreast of the accelerating rate of invention. This acceleration coupled with the ease of access to the online venue assure that both the clinician and child alike will enjoy a constant array of fresh and exciting choices, enhancing the clinical experience for everyone involved.
9. Why are schools increasingly more interested in teletherapy?
Online therapy affords schools unprecedented flexibility and access to top-notch therapists, as the schools are no longer constrained to locally-based clinicians, but can draw from an extensive nationwide network of highly qualified, certified therapists.
Additionally, the technology allows for optimal reporting and communications, which leads to increased parent satisfaction. Schools are overjoyed to be relieved of seemingly inescapable administrative headaches and expense.
Districts no longer have to recruit, screen, and manage therapists, pay transportation costs, or worry about interruptions in therapy when clinicians are absent, leave, or no longer reside within the district. Top-notch online therapy agencies handle all these functions while helping to ensure uninterrupted service, freeing up staff time for other educational priorities.
10. How does teletherapy benefit therapists?
Teletherapy is a dream come true for therapists as well. It offers convenient work hours with no need to travel. You can serve children nationwide while working from the comfort of your home. Other benefits include a single point of contact: contracting directly with the online therapy agency–simplifying scheduling, paperwork, and payment.
User-friendly EMR software makes progress monitoring easy and efficient through streamlining data with IEP objectives. You have easy access to records to review student progress with school administrators, parents, and teachers and provide them with graphs that visually represent the student’s progress over time.
Scheduling and conferences with parents and schools are easy to manage by using the agency’s online tools and video conferencing environment. And if you already hold an on-site clinical position, you can integrate additional hours of online therapy into your schedule.
11. How do kids feel about teletherapy?
The children benefit most of all! Growing up with digital technology, kids love online video interactions and digital learning. They’re comfortable with computers and enjoy the fun, game-based activities.
Children often find the experience less intimidating than in-person interactions. And the fact that sessions can be recorded and replayed provides an invaluable gift for both the students and parents, to monitor, critique and offer feedback.
Is your school looking to explore the benefits of teletherapy? Schedule your free demo today.