Online Speech Therapy at Home : Must Know Facts 

26-07-2022 | AKSHAYA KRISHNAN, MSc SPEECH LANGUAGE PATHOLOGY, SPEECH LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST 

Are you unable to attend speech therapy because you don’t have access to speech therapist near you? Or do you think you cannot visit a speech therapist because of work and school schedules? Worry no more. Almost every speech therapist provides online assessment (tele assessment) and therapy (tele therapy).

 What is Online Speech Therapy?

Online speech therapy is similar to traditional one-on-one speech therapy except that it happens remotely with the therapist and the client in two different settings. While traditional speech therapy happens in a clinical setting, online therapy makes remote learning possible. The major difference between the two is the primary therapist – parent is the primary therapist in an online session, whereas in offline mode, primary therapist is the speech therapist.

In teletherapy sessions, parents are educated and provided with all information in advance – information such as activities to be performed on a particular day, how to carry forward an activity, and how and when to reinforce the child. As the parent carries out speech activities, the therapist monitors, evaluates and gives instructions to the parent.

In an alternate mode of online speech therapy, therapist shows and teaches activities directly to the child. Child pays attention to the screen and follows activities as per therapist’s instructions. This mode depends on child’s age and skill level and usually works well with pictures, books, flashcards etc., which can be shown via screen.

Speech therapists may also use PowerPoint presentations with pictures and animations to create speech and language activities (targeting different goals) and share the screen during virtual speech therapy sessions. These alternate modes of online sessions are chosen with care considering a child’s age, diagnosis, pre-linguistics, language level, goals taken etc. 

In online speech therapy sessions, parents bear more responsibility and speech therapists make sure the parent is clear about all the activities and tasks to be done at home for training and achieving goals.

How can we do speech therapy at home?

Speech therapy can be practised at home under the guidance and supervision of a speech therapist. Speech language pathologists / speech therapists are qualified and trained professionals who assess and treat those individuals who need speech therapy. 

When it comes to parents/caregivers/partners of those individuals requiring speech therapy, home training is vital. Speech therapists set goals and provide the parents/caregivers/partners with a detailed home program for practice and achieving goals. Therapists regularly monitor and review the progress and make necessary modifications wherever required to ensure desired results. It is essential to follow the instructions of speech therapists for the success of home programs. 

Each one’s skill needs may vary and there is no ‘one size fits all’ treatment for speech and language issues. It is not recommended to carry out speech therapy exercises at home following a video watch. If you find a video on YouTube to be important and think it could help your condition, share your concern with the speech therapist and get their nod before implementing them directly.

 How to help different aged children with speech therapy?

First and foremost, it is important to know the language age of the child. In speech therapy, language age can be divided into two; receptive language age and expressive language age. Receptive language age is the appropriate age of the child’s language understanding and expressive language age is the appropriate age of a child’s language usage to express him/herself. 

For example, if a child of 4 years has a receptive language age of 3.2 years and expressive language age of 3 years, it means that the child understands language as that of a 3.2 years old child and expresses language as a 3 year old would do. Appropriate tests and observation sessions help arrive at the language age of the child. Once the receptive and expressive age of the child is understood, the speech therapist sets goals according to their level. 

Age plays a pivotal role in the diagnosis and treatment planning. For example, a 3-year-old child with a language age of 2 years and another child who is 8 years old with language age of 2 years will have different goals in speech and language therapy. This is because the communication needs and purposes are different at different ages.   

Speech therapists take into consideration the chronological age of the child to set speech and language goals for therapy. 

How can I help my 2 year old with speech therapy at home?

A 2-year-old child is at the beginning of critical period. Critical period (2-8 years) is the period when there is maximum brain development. Whatever is taught during this period, will be learned faster and remembered better. When speech therapy is started early, there will be better prognosis. 

For a 2-year-old toddler, language stimulation is vital because this is the period they start joining words to phrases. It is necessary to stimulate language at home for improved communication. 

Few strategies that can be followed at home include:

  • Give maximum verbal stimulation.
  • Talk about what you see, do, touch, smell, taste. Also, talk about what they see, do, touch, smell and taste.
  • Speak in short simple sentences.
  • Listen to your child when she/he is talking.
  • Narrate stories.
  • Talk about everything in the immediate environment.
  • Do not correct your child frequently.
  • Do not encourage the use of mobile phones/tabs/TV.

Above are a few general tips for practising speech therapy at home. One cannot use the same goals, activities, reinforcements, techniques for two different children/individuals. Every child is unique and speech therapists suggest activities after assessing and understanding each child’s specific need.

Does online consultation really work? What are the limitations?

Not every speech therapist could give a positive response to this question until recently. COVID brought in the realization to many, including hesitant therapists and parents on the immense potential and possibilities of online speech therapy. Online consultation and therapy works like wonder.

In online sessions, speech therapists can vividly observe a child, evaluate and diagnose the speech and language disorder. Similarly, if the child has good attention skills and can sit in front of the screen for 45 minutes, then it’s easier to start speech therapy with the child directly.  

With online sessions, children need not miss out on speech therapy due to non-availability of therapists at their place of residence. Besides, home is the place where kids feel most comfortable and secure with their parents. Online therapy helps save time and effort on adjusting to a new environment or person.

Online speech therapy works more or less like one-on-one offline sessions with speech therapists providing cue cards, images, books and verbal exercises. Additionally, in online speech therapy, the confidentiality of the client is well maintained. Success of any therapy depends largely on repetition and the quality of practice.

Limitations

  • The flip side of the coin is the requirement of high speed internet connection to access online speech therapy. 
  • Equipment failure or disruptions in power supply can affect online speech therapy sessions. 
  • For children who cannot sit and pay attention for 30-45 minutes during online speech therapy sessions, it may be difficult for the therapist to train the child directly. In such instances, parents are trained for practising activities at home. 
  • Even if parents and speech therapists discuss the activities and plan sessions in advance, the child’s response can neither be predicted nor planned. When there is an unpredicted response from the child, most often than not, parents do not know how to manage the situation or how to bring forth the desired response. Whereas, a speech therapist can modify activities and techniques on the spot to elicit better results from the child. Parents need more practice for this spontaneity. In online speech sessions, speech therapists observe a child’s actions, instruct the parents to modify and subsequently parents do the modifications.  

What Are the Points We Have to Take Care While Doing Speech Therapy Via Online

  • Talk to the speech therapist in advance and discuss the toys and objects required for activities. Keep everything ready before the commencement of the online speech therapy session.
  • Make sure there is high speed internet connection.
  • Make sure there are reinforcers to encourage the child.
  • Make sure there are no distractors for the child.
  • Make sure the speech therapist can see the child and therapy activities fully. Position the child in such a way for the speech therapist to get a clear view. 

 CONCLUSION

Online therapy has made speech therapy more accessible and convenient and it’s proven to be highly successful with adequate home training and quality practice. Though people generally tend to think traditional one-on-one speech therapy sessions bring the best results, online programs during COVID have changed the scenario recently. It has opened up a whole new platform to learn and practice speech therapy from the convenience of home.

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