Look, ma! I'm a teletherapist, now!

Week 3

Well, this week saw quite a change in my career. This week I became a teletherapist.

Now, when I went part-time a couple of years ago, I did so with the original intent to supplement with teletherapy. One thing led to another with the company I was trying to work with and no students came. Then, enjoying my newfound freedom, I decided not to pursue it. If students were recommended to me, I would consider taking them on; I left availability with the company and kept my options open. But I didn’t seek out additional state licensures or push for clients. I’ve been quite happy with my decision, but would wonder occasionally how I would have felt about teletherapy.

I’ve now been gifted the opportunity to wonder no longer. I imagine you find yourself in the same boat, yes?

I held 5 teletherapy sessions this week (a minuscule number compared to many of you, I’m sure) and experienced varying levels of success. After the first session, with a preschool articulation student, I felt overwhelmingly positive. The technology worked seamlessly, the student was engaged, and we got in plenty of repetitions. Lovely! The next session was a no show (a little awkward when you’re staring at yourself on a computer screen). The next was a technological disaster in which I discovered how bad I was at helping others troubleshoot problems. For the next session, I worked on articulation trials while the student spun circles in her living room and ate a snack (though she, of course, said she wasn’t). The fourth student looked to her mom sitting nearby each time I gave an instruction. The last complied happily with everything and, after learning she was my last student of the day, proclaimed at the end of the session, “Oh, good! Now we can just talk!” and settled in for a chat.

Overall, I actually enjoyed the experience. When things went well, they really did go well. My student working on stuttering was more engaged than I had ever experienced (owing, perhaps, to being one-on-one for the first time). For students with placement more or less already established, getting in repetitions was actually easier than group sessions at school. However, between technology and distance, there are definitely some kinks to work out.

Here are a few takeaways, in no particular order.

  1. Boom Cards are a pretty worthwhile investment if you can’t find what you need free. There’s something about that little “ding” each time a student gets something right that’s motivating.

  2. Have your PDF files all lined up and ready to go. You will inevitably decide to screen share before you’re organized if not and everyone gets to see your chaos.

  3. If you think you’ll need to demonstrate a placement technique, go ahead and have a few tools handy. If you’re like me, you’re going to have to get by with what you have at home, but I quickly realized that even having a straw on hand would have been helpful.

  4. On the same note, if you think you’ll need students to utilize something at home to help, go ahead and let the parent know so they can provide it at the beginning of the session.

  5. Having a few troubleshooting articles already pulled up is nice for when technology goes haywire. Also, keep your phone close by so you can potentially call or text the parent while you work out any problems.

  6. You can get a lot more done in much less time. Plan accordingly.

  7. Your students probably really aren’t enjoying being off school. They love seeing your face. Be engaged and happy and friendly and make this worth their while. It’s more than just trials and repetitions for them - it’s some sense of normalcy.

  8. There is also a possibility that your students won’t quite “get it.” About half way through one session, my student exclaimed, “Hey!! You’re my speech teacher!!” Yep.

  9. You will also love seeing their faces. Be prepared to experience joy you didn’t expect seeing kids who aren’t your own through a screen.

  10. Some parents will be very interested in what you’re doing. Some won’t be. (We know this already). Use this time to engage the ones who are! Demonstrate for them and encourage them to carry on with it on their own time.