What is Virtual Speech Therapy Supposed to Look Like?

We are still in the age of Covid and despite the release of a vaccine, we are still doing some things remotely, such as school, doctor’s appointments and for several children at my clinic, remote speech therapy.

I still have several children that I see virtually, and I know many of your children are most likely still getting their speech therapy online.
Therefore, I get a lot of questions about how an online speech therapy session is supposed to work. Here is one of the many e-mails that I have received, that I would like to share with you.

It reads, “Hi Jason, I wonder how your zoom speech therapy sessions happen? My daughter’s therapist rarely talks to her. The therapist only talks to me and tells me what to do. Most of the time she mentions things that I already do. Is this normal?

There are a lot of questions that I had for this mom and a lot of questions that I would have for you if you asked me the same question today.

The answers to the questions I am about to pose will help me, or any speech therapist, determine what amount of interaction we need to have with the child. The answers to these questions can also help therapists determine if long term online therapy is even appropriate for your individual child’s needs.

So, let’s look at a couple of things that can help therapists determine the best treatment plan for your child.

How old is the child? Age is extremely important and frankly, if children are too young, then the online therapist won’t be able to do very much aside from talking to the parent. It is almost impossible to have a one-on-one speech therapy session with a 16 month old. Children at this age are not old enough to interact with a therapist via a computer screen. As a therapist, the only thing I am going to be able to do virtually for a child of this age, is to guide the mother or father as to what to do at home to facilitate language.
Does the child have the necessary attention span? If the child simply cannot pay attention while sitting in front of a computer screen, there isn’t much the therapist can do. That’s where you, the parent, come in. It is your job to sit with your child during the entire session, to redirect their attention when necessary. In virtual sessions, the job of redirecting a child’s attention falls on the parents shoulders, since it is impossible for a therapist to do while not in the same room with the child. If you, as the parent, cannot commit to sitting with your child during these sessions, then virtual speech therapy might not be for you.

If after answering these two questions you have determined that your child is perfectly capable of participating in online speech therapy and you continue to notice that your therapist is still only interacting with you, the parent, and not with your child, then it is likely time to switch therapists. Not every therapist is a good match for every child and vice versa. Start looking for a new therapist. Don’t be afraid to do this! Your time, and more importantly, your child’s future is at stake.

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Jason Spear Miller