(This post contains some affiliate links to products I honestly use and truly love).
When I started doing teletherapy in 2014, I used a laptop while sitting on a (not at all supportive) couch in my basement. Yikes. It didn't take long for that dungeon-like set-up to take a toll on my back... and mind.
As I grew to love teletherapy and realized that it was the speech therapy setting for me, I invested in creating a dedicated home office space. While everyone's needs, resources, and priorities are different, I have found several must-haves (and nice-to-haves) for a home office that make providing teletherapy more comfortable, efficient, and personalized.
Creating a Space for a Teletherapy Home Office
Choose a quiet location.
First things first– teletherapy (just like in-person therapy) requires a quiet space. It must be free from noise that would interfere with clear communication with your students (I'm looking at you, Fido). If non-furry family members will also be home while you are doing therapy, make sure to choose a room with a door that is away from where they will be.
DO look back.
Ensure that your background (what the students see behind you) is not cluttered or distracting and shows items that are appropriate for your students (and possibly virtual IEP meeting participants) to see. You can also position the desk so that the only thing behind you is a wall or some sort of room divider.
Here's a picture of what's behind me when my webcam is on... minus the dog that's usually napping on that couch and serving as a fun topic of conversation for students. Sometimes I use the platform feature that blurs the background automatically, which works well for students that are distracted more easily.
Light it up!
If you do not have adequate natural lighting in the room, have a window installed. Just kidding– use a floor or table lamp to illuminate your workspace so that your students are able to clearly see your mouth and facial expressions. This is especially important for social language and articulation therapy!
Now for the big stuff– office furniture!
You will need a desk (or table) that has ample space for the computer and its accessories, as well as room to take notes or write on test protocols. Many teletherapists use desks that adjust to a standing height, allowing them to stretch their legs throughout the day.
Those with active, young children at home might welcome the chance to sit down as much as possible (I'm kidding... sort of). Finding a comfortable office chair that provides sufficient support and proper ergonomics is key. For me, a chair with a high back, armrests, and wheels works best.
If your desk is on carpet or a rug (or if you want to splurge on something very random for your teletherapy home office), consider a tempered glass chair mat (this is the one I've had for years). As silly as it sounds, it has made a huge difference in my comfort level, as my chair moves effortlessly. I promise it will not break, but I do not blame you if you hesitantly sit on it at first 😄
Technology Equipment for a Teletherapy Home Office
Choosing a computer for teletherapy.
Next up is the most obvious piece of equipment that you'll need– a computer! Much of this is personal preference, such as desktop vs. laptop, Mac vs. P.C., and size of the screen (go big or go home is my monitor size motto).
However, the tech specs (what's going on inside the computer) do matter. Check your platform's help center for system requirements (processor speed, operating system, memory, etc.). Keep in mind that spending a little more money on your computer upfront can prevent or lessen frustrating tech issues like lagging and freezing later on.
Other technology accessories for teletherapy.
A webcam is an obvious teletherapy requisite so that your student can see you. While most computers now come with a built-in webcam, external webcams can be connected to the computer via a USB cable for those that don't.
Along with a webcam, investing in a good headset ensures you and your students can adequately hear each other. I strongly recommend choosing a headset with a microphone, rather than using the computer's built-in mic. When the microphone is near your mouth, your speech is less distorted and your student hears your voice more clearly. When shopping for teletherapy headsets, consider questions such as...
Which fit of headphones do you find most comfortable (over-the-ear, on-the-ear, in-the-ear)?
Do you need noise-canceling headphones to reduce the ability to hear sounds in your own environment?
Do you want wired or wireless headphones (that connect to your computer via Bluetooth)?
Would you like to have quick-access controls on the headset for mute and/or volume?
Remember that a headset that fits comfortably for one SLP may give another SLP a headache within the first hours of the day, so be sure to try on various types to get a feel for your preferences. There are tons of quality and not-so-quality options available... ask me how I know. But I've used (and loved!) this over-ear gaming headset for years.
Lastly, INTERNET. Ohhh how I wish I would have had fiber internet from day 1 of my teletherapy career. Teletherapy platforms require a lot of data transmission for the audio and video signals to be shared back and forth in real time. Again, check your platform's bandwidth requirements to know what's needed.
One more note on internet– Ideally, your computer should be hardwired. This means that it is directly connected to the router, as opposed to using a Wi-Fi signal. You should also consider who else in your household might be using the internet, as that could impede the strength of the signal available for your use.
Extras for a Teletherapy Home Office
Now for some fun additions to make your home office well.... yours! While not mandatory, these are some ways I've found to make teletherapy life easier, more efficient, more comfortable, and more enjoyable!
The first one is a second monitor. It plugs right into your computer and basically acts as an extension of your desktop screen. You can use this extra real estate for many things. Here are a few examples...
Prep for the day by having activities for upcoming sessions ready to go.
During a session, share the screen of your second monitor to present an activity (while still being able to see the student's video).
Type session notes at the end of or between sessions while the platform is open on your main monitor.
When writing IEPs or progress reports (on your main monitor), use your second monitor to review data.
While I'm fairly new to wearing prescription glasses (for distances), I've been wearing blue light-blocking glasses for years. I have found that they really decrease eye strain, especially when working at night (which I try realllllly hard not to do)!
I'm a big fan of going green... literally, since it's my favorite color. And I'm also an aspiring plant lady, so I was hooked from the moment my friend Kristin (at Kiwi Speech) told me about easyplants. I immediately placed an order, was wowed by their customer service, and stare at my new favorite office accessory each morning.
While I'm a digital tools-loving SLP through and through, I do have a couple of paper preferences (in addition to my somewhat old-fashioned planning and data collection system). I can confidently say that this Post-It note dispenser is the only one I will ever own. All I can say is– pop-up sticky notes. If you know, you know.
A planner/schedule is also something I can't seem to successfully digitize. Each year, I spend more time than I care to admit scouring the internet for the perfect planner. My current planner is by Plum Paper and it's amazing. I customized it completely for me. I have a 10% off referral code if you'd like to try one for yourself, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An honorable mention would be a corkboard (or magnet board) that can be hung near your computer to house helpful information. You can use it to keep the school calendar, frequently used phone numbers, and important reminders handy.
If you're pursuing a career in teletherapy, space, and equipment are among the first of several considerations in providing quality teletherapy. My home office has come a long way from my ergonomic nightmare in the dark basement, and creating my work area has been one of my favorite parts of working from home. I love that it's personalized for my needs and that I can decorate the space using things that inspire and prepare me to do my best work.
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