~Written by Marissa Pajot Webb

In light of recent events with the Covid-19 pandemic, many therapy practices have been moving to online therapy (often referred to as Telepractice or Teletherapy) in order to be able to continue to provide support to the children and families that we work with on a regular basis.  I have to admit, that at first, I was sceptical myself.  I really highly value being “in the room” with my clients and feel that the magic of therapy happens when we are together as we learn from each other through the therapeutic process and learn to adapt to each other to reach goals together.  We did not want the online version of therapy to take away from the quality we provide to our clients and were not prepared to deliver anything less than the best for our families.

Trying Teletherapy

Nevertheless, I am not afraid of a challenge, and as the ethos of our practice involves thriving in the face of adversity which the inspiration for our name suggests, I decided to give it a try.  We initially offered free online therapy sessions to begin trialling it with families who were up for giving it a go.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that we learned together in a similar way to how we learn together in face to face sessions.  We all felt that we were not only able to further the therapeutic process but we had a lot of fun in the process and the children took to it well as did I as the therapist!

Today’s children are already geared up to engage with screens and therefore have great skills already for this type of work. They use iPads and computers in schools engaging with them regularly to access the curriculum and games, so adult fears about limited attention to screen activities are often proven to be unfounded and everyone is relieved!

How it Works

It is important to point out the two types of Teletherapy that we can offer and what that involves for families.  We can provide Child Involved Therapy which is similar to face to face therapy in that we work with the child and the parents in a collaborative way during the therapy session with both the parent and the child being involved in the session using interactive games both with tech and without.  During these sessions, it is expected that the parent or carer take an active role during the therapy session but they are not required to ensure the child sits still (as that may be totally impossible!).  Rather, the parent is there to participate and learn therapy techniques and take part in games and encourage engagement through positive interaction.  It can be nice to have a visual schedule of what will happen after the session for the child to look forward to as well to keep them motivated.

The other type of therapy is Parent Consultation & Coaching which is something we often do as part of face to face therapy sessions but may involve the child being present for the session, but this does not necessarily have to be the case in teletherapy.  We can have sessions to support parents by demonstrating therapy techniques and activities, talking through strategies, reviewing video footage of parent-child interactions or home practice and giving parents the opportunity to ask questions and get advice on anything related to their child’s intervention and communication.  Parents so far have found this extremely useful as they have been able to have a walk-through of therapy activities they can do at home and ask questions about resources, toys or support strategies and troubleshoot without the need for the child to be present.

Being On Board with Teletherapy

One factor in getting ready for teletherapy was training.  Fortunately with the current climate, many practitioners are sharing best practice in teletherapy and our practice is fortunate to be in contact with many wonderful colleagues who helped to support us on this journey through supervision meetings.  We have learned from webinars on teletherapy from a variety of speech and language therapists who work in telepractice and engaged in self-directed research into efficacy.

How did we launch teletherapy?  I would say that the way that children and parents engaged with this new therapy method with an open mind was the key.  We did it together.  I found it helpful to talk it through a bit ahead of time and make sure that our expectations of the child were in agreement and we were ready to work together to make the therapy a success. We look forward to providing high quality teletherapy

Top Tips for Your Successful Teletherapy Session

  • Clear a good space free of distractions.
  • Get seating and positioning right and in good lighting.
  • Try out your tech and clean your screen (desktop or laptop works better than iPad for the child)
  • Keep a drink or snack handy just in case.
  • Have toys ready to share (we can coordinate the same toys/games too)!
  • Make a plan: visual schedule and a plan for what will happen after the session.

So far, our parents have said…….

I thought it went brilliantly! He really enjoyed it and was engaged the whole time.”

“That was so helpful for me.  I really feel more confident to play these therapy games.”