The Pivot to Telehealth for Speech Language Pathologists
It’s no secret: The world continues to migrate to virtual applications more and more each year. While this pivot was already taking place gradually, the transition to telehealth happened suddenly for many, particularly for speech language pathologists (SLPs), in the wake of the global pandemic.Now that so many SLPs have pivoted to seeing patients virtually, some will likely continue using this method of teaching due to the flexibility and convenience it offers both provider and patient.
Whether you’re just starting your journey as a SLP or you’re a seasoned practitioner looking for some additional tips for virtual therapy sessions, this is for you. We’ve compiled 13 useful tips and tools to assist you in providing high quality care to your patients virtually.
7 Logistical Tips for Speech Therapy Sessions
1. Ensure Your Platform is HIPAA Compliant
As a healthcare provider, you must comply with all HIPAA laws to protect your patients’ medical information. This includes ensuring that the technology platform you use for teletherapy is HIPAA compliant. Most video conferencing software has adapted to this requirement, but in some cases, you may have to pay for the HIPAA compliant coverage.
(Note: Before you use Google Meet, ensure you have a business agreement with Google that ensures adequate compliance.)
2. Utilize Dual Screens
If you’ve spent any amount of time working virtually, you know it can be a challenge to see everything you need easily on one screen. That’s why so many therapists are now using dual computer monitors. You can easily connect a second monitor to your existing desktop or laptop, allowing you to see additional open windows.
3. Queue Up Videos to Avoid Ads
Nothing is more distracting than trying to show a student or patient an educational video only to discover there is a 30-second ad for the latest movie or hottest product that cannot be skipped. To avoid this unwanted interruption, have all your videos queued up, paused, and ready to go!
4. Compile Links for Easy Access
For resources that are not video based, compile a list of all links you’ll need during a therapy session in one document. This will allow you to quickly select the visual aid you need without having a host of windows open in your browser (which can cause your internet connection or your computer to lag).
5. Request Parent/Guardian Attendance
Having a parent or guardian present during therapy sessions is paramount to overcoming common obstacles. For example, some exercises may require a student to point to something on the screen. As a provider, you cannot see where the patient is pointing, but with a guardian present, he or she would be able to communicate with a simple head nod. A parent could also help troubleshoot basic technology challenges should you encounter any issues during a therapy session.
Additionally, a key part of speech therapy is reinforcement at home. When parents can see how their children are engaging during therapy, they are better able to support the students’ progress outside of your sessions.
6. Limit Additional Streaming During Appointments
As a SLP, the ability to see and be seen by your patient is crucial for successful therapy. You don’t have time to combat frozen screens or dropped connections.
Unless both you and your patient have robust high-speed internet with substantial bandwidth, it is best to request that other streaming be limited in both locations to ensure your therapy session isn’t interrupted due to a poor or bogged down connection.
7. Choose Your Environment and Attire Thoughtfully
When staging your virtual speech therapy sessions, pick a backdrop without distractions. A solid wall, or a minimally decorated background is best. Also consider wearing solid-colored shirts and simple jewelry. Patterns can be unexpectedly disorienting, and jingling earrings, bracelets, or necklaces can create unnecessary background noise.
6 Useful Tools for Speech Therapy Sessions
1. Wacom Tablet
A Wacom tablet includes a pad and stylus. This tool allows what you write on the tablet to appear on the screen. While this isn’t a necessity for speech therapy sessions, it could be a helpful tool for a SLP who is used to writing on a whiteboard to communicate concepts.
2. Sketchbook Softwares
Sketchbook is a free application for your PC or Mac that allows you to write on a blank canvas and import jpeg images. While it isn’t as convenient as being able to write on a Wacom tablet with a stylus, it is free, which is a bonus.
3. PDFelement by Wondershare
PDFelement allows you to easily display and manipulate PDF files. For activities where your student or patient would typically circle or cross out corresponding answers, PDFelement allows you to easily draw over PDF files you upload to its platform.
4. Google Slides and PowerPoint
Rather than sift through a list of links or tab after tab of open windows, create a Google Slides deck or PowerPoint presentation for your speech therapy sessions. This minimizes your risk of technology issues and puts every element you need in one location.
5. Teachers Pay Teachers
If you’re a speech language pathologist who works with students, you’re not only a healthcare specialist but a teacher as well. Teachers Pay Teachers is an online marketplace for buying and selling educator resources. A quick search for virtual speech therapy resources yields thousands of results!
6. Boom Cards
Educators are raving about Boom Cards, and it has a particularly useful application for virtual speech therapy. With Boom Cards, you can create custom interactive activities. Your students can log into this platform and participate in the activities you assign. In a virtual setting, it can be challenging to find ways to give your students hands-on experience. Boom Cards allows your students to navigate on screen, giving them a bit of control during the session.
Keep Adding to Your Speech Therapy Toolbox
Switching over to virtual care can be daunting, but don’t be discouraged, we’re all in this together. The migration to distance therapy has been a paradigm shift for the profession, but the SLP community has rallied to support one another. There’s even a Facebook group devoted to Teletherapy Materials for Speech Language Pathologists with over forty thousand members!
Jump into online forums and collaborate with colleagues. Keep adding tools to your speech therapy toolbox. And remember why you pursued speech therapy as a career. Whether you’re helping a patient regain his voice or encouraging a student in her articulation, you’re making a difference.
Have You Thought About Travel Therapy?
This could be the perfect time to explore new opportunities! SLPs are in high-demand, and we can help you find the best traveling therapy jobs now.