Remote and tele-health services have been increasing in the last few years, with a sharp increase during and after the pandemic. As Speech-Language providers, you may be wondering how virtual SLP services and therapy work, how valid the services are, and what virtual speech-language therapy looks like in terms of relationships with schools and parents. We spoke to Shauna Beyer, the lead SLP for Parallel Learning, to answer your frequently asked questions.
Shauna has more than 25 years of experience in the field of speech-language pathology, working with children and families across schools, early intervention, clinic and university settings. She is passionate about helping people with communication or learning differences and empowers students and families by providing strategies and resources to succeed.
Q: What do Speech and Language services entail?
A: Services include evaluation and intervention for individuals who have communication disorders, whether that is articulation or speech sound difficulty, language, processing language, delayed feeding and swallowing, etc. Often, it is related to a diagnosis that a person has such as autism, but it also could just be that it is a delay. There's a difference between a delay and a disorder. A delay is when a child is on the right trajectory and is just falling behind their peers. A disorder is atypical speech or language acquisition.
Sometimes if a student has a learning disability, then we might serve as a support service to the special education services that they're already receiving.
Q: What might a virtual SLP session look like?
A: As the SLP, you're working either individually or with a group of students. Services may occur at home or within a school and often we will have either the parent/caregiver or a support person at the school assisting the student in the speech session, making sure that they get onto the computer or providing other assistance.
As far as activities, the SLP will base that on the student's interests as well as the individual goals that have been developed for the student. Activities are fun and interactive. The SLP is always exploring ways to support their learning and to meet the specific IEP goals through games or activities. Grade-level activities and even academic content are embedded into the therapy session with collaboration from the teachers. A functional component is also considered on how addressing specific goals and objectives may impact the daily routine.
Q: What are the benefits of providing these services virtually?
A: There are a number of benefits. With school districts, in particular, it helps because they have provider shortages and they need extra help. For the families, they may be seeking those additional services as well. Furthermore, sometimes students or individuals may not feel as comfortable in an in-person situation and they really enjoy the virtual component and are often motivated by that. It is also very convenient for everyone involved as there’s no traveling and sessions can take place in the comfort and privacy of home or school.
Q: What do you find the challenges of this model to be?
A: We definitely have to gauge the student's interest and keep their attention and focus. With the session duration, we have to make sure that the amount of time is appropriate for the student, especially young children who may not be able to attend for even a short period of time.
The appropriateness of virtual services is always considered and we implement best practice depending on the individual’s needs. Sometimes, face-to-face is necessary for individuals with specific disorders, especially non-verbal, for individuals with cognitive impairment, for those who need to have more direct interaction due to behaviors and inattentiveness, or for the examination of the oral mechanism.
Q: Do you ever work with other providers or the schools in providing services or doing testing?
A: Absolutely. Collaboration is key on the ground and in the virtual environment. Having a team approach is critical to the success of the student or client. While you may not be walking down the hallway to speak to a teacher, those emails, phone calls, and virtual meetings are just as effective. Testing may also be conducted alongside another provider and at minimum, you will be having collaborative conversations.
Q: How effective is virtual speech-language therapy?
A: The research shows that it is absolutely as effective as in person therapy. It is direct therapy. The data and the progress are no different. It obviously depends on the individual needs, however. It is not for every person. Yet, on the other hand, I’ve seen kids become very motivated when they weren’t for in-person therapy.
Q: Has it impacted the caretaker involvement at all?
A: No, in fact it may be better. Given a virtual environment, parents/caregivers may be able to join sessions or meetings more easily. Whereas they might have struggled to attend or participate with in-person meetings and sessions due to scheduling conflicts with work or other commitments.
Q: Do you attend meetings and do evaluations as you normally would on the ground?
A: Because technology has evolved, participation in meetings is seamless. School districts have the means for virtual attendance for all involved and often have electronic means of signing documents. For evaluations, Parallel has assessments built into the virtual platform making administration easy. We collaborate with the school or family to ensure all the tools necessary are made available for the optimal situation.
With live-online services we are able to find related service professionals that will not compete against your ability to hire individuals in-district. We can reach IEP and 504 students from multiple sites, and offer flexible scheduling and pricing options.
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