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What is telepractice, anyway?

Updated: Aug 17, 2019


Speech and language therapy has been around for a long time. Traditionally, people have worked with speech-language pathologists (SLPs) in their schools, hospitals, private clinics, or home visits. But sometimes, none of these formats are quite the right fit for a family’s needs.


A busy family might not have time to travel to a private clinic for individual speech therapy! Juggling a family’s needs can be a challenge for even a family with one child, and that only becomes more complicated when siblings or mobility issues are in the mix. The constraints of this kind of schedule means that the ideal speech and language service delivery schedule might not be possible for a child. An SLP might say that shorter visits 5 days a week are the best fit for the child’s goals, but the family can’t possibly arrange to come to the clinic every day for a 10-15 minute session. Even for longer sessions, sometimes it can feel like that 30- or 45-minute session ends up taking two hours out of your day, when you take into account packing the kids into the car, driving to the clinic, and heading home.


Home visits are also a great option, but the same kinds of barriers can exist that keep people from scheduling the ideal service delivery schedule. The SLP needs to make sure their time is productive and used well, so spending 15 minutes in the car for a 10 or 15 minute visit doesn’t make sense for them either. And some families just aren’t comfortable having strangers come into their home on a regular basis-- feeling like you have to clean up, corral the pets and siblings, or decide whether to cancel when you have a cold can be a lot for any family.


Schools sometimes have trouble finding SLPs in their areas of the state or country. Smaller schools, including private and charter schools, may also run into issues with being able to afford a full-time SLP to serve a relatively small group of children with special needs. And even when schools don’t face these barriers, sometimes families like to supplement school speech and language services. School SLPs, including those working in the district through telepractice, are limited to working only on things that are “barriers to the academic curriculum.” Many districts have strict guidelines for how severe a student’s needs have to be before they can receive services. So a student with a milder disorder might not qualify in the school, even though there’s room to grow. Often, there are so many students on a school SLP’s caseload that they have to see people in groups, rather than individually. This means that each student gets slightly less individualized attention and focused work on their speech or language goals.


Individual families also run into problems with access to qualified SLPs. Just like with school SLPs, there are private SLP shortages in many parts of the country. Wait lists can be very long, and we all know that getting help quickly is often vital to successful outcomes.


And this is all before we even get to the additional issues faced by families who work “outside the box”-- full-time traveling families, those whose kids split their time between parents in different places, expats living overseas, and many many more.


So in comes telepractice!


With telepractice speech and language therapy, you can access services on your schedule, wherever you are, as long as you have a computer and an internet connection.


The SLP on the other end of the computer is a licensed professional, just like the person you’d see in a school, clinic, or home visit. With most online telepractice platforms, you can play games, read books, draw pictures, and do pretty much everything you would do during an in-person speech and language therapy session.


Service delivery is flexible. It is no longer a problem to have short, daily sessions, or sessions as frequently as you need them. One child can be doing speech therapy while the other has an in-home piano lesson. You no longer have to cancel because your other child has a virus and you can’t leave them home or bring them along to make it to the clinic. The child doesn’t even have to put on their shoes.


If you think that telepractice might be the answer for your family’s speech and language needs, we would love to hear from you! Visit www.alightspeechtherapy.com to schedule a free consultation or find out more.

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