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  • Writer's pictureStacy Crouse

5 Keys to Success as a Teletherapy SLP

As teletherapy becomes increasingly common, many SLPs’ curiosity is sparked by this new model of providing speech therapy. Along with an interest in teletherapy, SLPs may also have a lot of questions about it.


One common question might be, “What will help me be successful as a teletherapist?” As an SLP working in telepractice since 2014, I’d like to share the skills, values, traits, and attitudes that I've found positively contribute to a positive telepractice experience.


BE A DILIGENT AND PURPOSEFUL COMMUNICATOR.

As with most jobs, teletherapy SLPs should have strong communication skills. Think about it– teletherapists never have a single face-to-face interaction with a colleague, supervisor, administrator, or parent for so much as an impromptu chat.


Obviously, when you never physically see another person, all communication occurs through other means. Knowing the best type of communication to use in various situations and doing so with professionalism is imperative.


SLPs working in telepractice must have strong email communication skills, since that is often the main form of interaction with parents and colleagues. It’s important to be clear and concise in typed messages and responses, but also amiable and professional.


the hands of a teletherapy SLP writing an email on a laptop

Many teletherapy companies also utilize some form of messaging system or discussion board for internal communication. I have even found that text message communication with parents is often the preferred method for some families.


However, if communication with parents and school staff is solely through written means, they may have a hard time envisioning you as a part of the team. Real-time communication, such as phone calls and video conferences, are important for teletherapy SLPs. These interactions assist in building rapport, making connections, and collaborating. This is especially true when performing virtual IEP case management.


PERFORM DUTIES AUTONOMOUSLYY.

Another inherent characteristic of working from home without colleagues in proximity is that there may be less direct oversight of job performance.


Of course, SLP teletherapists are still very much accountable for maintaining legally compliant IEPs and completing paperwork, such as progress reports and evaluations, on time. However, supervision is physically removed from your work space.


SLPs that are successful in teletherapy are self-starters that can identify what needs to be completed and initiate those tasks independently. That being said, they also know when and how to reach out to a co-worker or supervisor for support.


UTILIZE AVAILABLE RESOURCES.

Understandably, new SLP teletherapists may have little or no previous experience providing virtual speech therapy. There's a huge learning curve involved. While I had been a pediatric SLP for years prior to my first teletherapy job, I remember feeling completely unsure of what therapy would look like when working virtually with a student.


Locating and utilizing digital resources requires some creative and out-of-the-box thinking for SLPs who may have previously leaned on board games and black and white worksheets for face-to-face therapy.


Effective SLP teletherapists must be innovative in finding ways to engage students. They can search out or create digital and interactive speech therapy activities to target their students' goals in a whole new way.


A teletherapy SLP browsing digital activities to use in sessions

GET (AND STAY) ORGANIZED.

Shifting from an in-person job to a virtual one also means a shift in how to organize many day-to-day tasks and duties.


Serving Multiple Schools

In many cases, SLP teletherapists work with students in multiple schools and districts. They must be organized in obtaining and keeping track of each school's or district‘s processes and procedures. Each district's special education legislation (such as eligibility requirements) must also be followed.


Maintaining SLP Licenses

Many teletherapists also work across state lines, meaning they have multiple state licenses. Since each license is likely on a different renewal cycle (with different amounts and types of continuing education required), it must be diligently tracked.


These free tools can help teletherapy SLPs with staying organized:


Planning and Taking Data

Like any other SLP, teletherapists must also be organized when it comes to planning and data collection. Some prefer to complete these tasks on paper while others may utilize a digital system.


A teletherapy SLP's system for planning speech therapy sessions and taking data on student goals

Organizing Speech Therapy Activities

Having therapy materials that are organized and easy to find is also helpful for SLP teletherapists. This includes a system for maintaining downloaded files as well as keeping links for website activities.


READILY ACCEPT TECHNOLOGY.

SLPs don't need to be tech experts to be successful in providing teletherapy.

A solid foundation of computer hardware and software helps, but it’s not a prerequisite. With a positive willingness to learn, SLPs can expand their technology skillset.


Most companies provide training for their systems and troubleshooting techniques. Utilizing this information and taking the time to practice is greatly beneficial. A new teletherapy SLP might completing a “mock session” with a mentor, supervisor, or colleague prior to the first session. The should also utilize tech support personnel and resource libraries as needed.


While this list of teletherapy SLP success factors is nowhere near exhaustive, it's a good foundation for those who are considering a job change. With proper research, planning, and preparation most SLPs can thrive in their transition to teletherapy.


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