Providing Early Intervention In Teletherapy
It's the million dollar question. How do I provide early intervention in a teletherapy setting? You can't be on the floor with the child. You can't play with toys with the child. You can't use the child's natural environment to facilitate speech and language. Or can you?
As a Certified Auditory Verbal Therapist, my answer to the question of how to provide speech and language therapy to the youngest of clients/students, no matter the setting, is always going to be a parent/caregiver coaching model (read more about that specific type of parent coaching HERE). Coaching parents to provide language stimulation using their everyday routines and play is ideal for early intervention, for both face to face and telepractice settings.
At least a few days before the session, identify (with the parent) what activity (or activities) you'll be doing. For example, it might be playing with Mr. Potato Head or toy instruments, or having a snack. Check out this fabulous blog post by Nanette Cote with several early intervention ideas for teletherapy! Once the activity is planned and the parent knows what materials they will need to have ready for the session, determine the strategy or strategies you'll be coaching the parent to use for eliciting the desired language targets.
While most very young kids are not yet able to attend to a therapist on the screen, some may be able to as they near preschool age. If the child is ready to engage with both the therapist and the parent, there are many ways to promote language development via teletherapy
Kids aren't the only ones that get to play with their toys in teletherapy.... you can too! YouTube has proven that kids are completely content watching other people play with toys. Make the video feeds full screen in the platform, so that you can see each other well. If you want to be fancy and use a document camera to show actual objects, be my guest. If you'd rather just hold up objects to the camera, that works too! You can hide objects in containers, use puppets, wear fun hats, build with blocks, roll play doh, read a book, blow bubbles, put a baby doll to sleep.... anything!
Older toddlers and preschools may be able to participate in activities presented on the computer screen. Activities that are bright and colorful are going to be your best bet. Boom Cards are especially useful, because many have moveable parts that keep young children interested, such as the nursery rhyme activity shown here. But don't ditch the parents! They can provide models and still be coached on eliciting language in digital activities too.
In the deck shown in the video below, you can use moveable objects to model and elicit sounds and words, such as blowing air to make bubbles or saying "mmmm" when bringing the ice cream cone to the mouth. The therapist and parent provide models of the target sound/word and use strategies, such as an expectant look, to elicit the child's production. The child's communication is immediately reinforced with the visual movement of an object on the screen!
This farm-themed Boom Cards deck is another example of a simple, yet interactive, activity to engage young children using moveable pieces and familiar vocabulary. This resource is very versatile, as you can target anything from gestures (waving to the animals), to imitating animal sounds, to saying "open", to producing short phrases and sentences such as "I see a pig."
Songs and books are always engaging activities for young children, and there's no shortage of either one on YouTube. Incorporate movement, such as acting out the story or dancing to music, to keep the child engaged. TinyTap is a free website with educational games, including this section of nursery rhyme activities. You can also find lots of free and dynamic activities for toddlers and preschoolers on OwlieBoo.
For more helpful insight and logistics on teletherapy with young students, check out this blog post written by a former teletherapy colleague of mine!