Change is hard. Let’s face it, no one really loves it, especially when it’s abrupt. However, it’s also provided us a great opportunity to adapt. At the start of this pandemic I was encouraged by the following words: crisis is the birthplace of innovation and the nexus for opportunistic growth (Anonymous, 2020). In a world where all normalcy was interrupted, I welcomed the transition into teletherapy.
Personally, I was grateful—it allowed me to continue working during these times. I was invigorated by the opportunity to research this new mode of service delivery and I was amazed by the amount of work already done in this field, the resources available, and the collaboration and cooperation between SLPs from across the country. I spent hours on continuing education courses, compiling and sorting materials for my colleague and I to use. It was an adrenaline rush to have all this information to learn in a short period of time. Boom Cards, Toy Theater, Ultimate SLP, Vooks, TedEd, EdPuzzle, and Youtube were game changing. I also came across some phenomenal SLPs including Sarah and Lisa from SLPToolkit, Rachel Madel from Talking with Tech, Marisha from SLPNow, and Amanda Blackwell. Through my research, I’ve added a lot of new information and tools to my toolbelt that help me to better serve my clientele.
I felt a great sense of relief that I could continue to serve my school and clinic-based clients and guide them through the adjustment process and new normal of learning. I was specifically concerned with the younger children I serve, considering:
- How would they feel about this change?
- How would they transition to online learning?
- How would they cope with more time in the house while having less time outside and with their friends?
- Would they think to reach out or would they bury their heads in the sand and wait for this to pass?
The children I work with need the structure. They need the meals provided at school. They need the opportunities to socialize with peers. They need the time to walk around and take breaks. They need someone to help them visualize the tasks that need to be done and come up with plans to complete their work. Without these, accessing their education becomes even more of a challenge.
I also worried about their parents and caregivers, many of them facing challenges of unemployment or having to work in this pandemic as essential personnel. I asked myself: how can I support these children and their families? I spent hours calling and emailing, checking in on families, making sure they were doing okay and feeling supported. I certainly did not want to be a stressor to them. Afterall, how could I expect families to be ready to jump right into an unfamiliar territory of teletherapy if their every day normal was in limbo? But as I reached out, I found that parents craved the normalcy of sessions and wanted to help keep their children on track.
Yet, I was still unsure. I worried if teletherapy would be appropriate for all of my clients? Would I be good at this? Would the families of my clients see the benefit? At the time, I had almost 80 kids to support and was unsure how they were all going to fit in the days. But with some planning and flexibility, all clients that requested direct services found a place on the schedule. So despite the worries, we were in a new teletherapy world and we were making it work. I knew it’d be a continuing process of evolution and that was okay, too.
Once we got started, I ran up to 14 teletherapy sessions a day. This meant the day had to run efficiently, but how do you control efficiency when you cannot account for technological glitches and other unexpected happenings when everyone is home? I turned to lesson planning like never before. The truth is, one of the skills you develop as an SLP is being able to turn everyday activities in your environment to target goals and objectives. We move quickly so ‘on the fly’ is how we work best. However, this wasn’t feasible virtually, so I had to plan…and plan a lot. I didn’t think I could work more hours, but the days started earlier and ended later. It was nice to cut down on drive time and meal prepping for the week now that I was home, but it seemed like all those hours I thought I was saving actually went to work. Despite the extra hours, I felt accomplished and rewarded because I consistently saw kids virtually without being interrupted by some of the typical school interruptions like events, meetings, or evaluations. All of my clients enjoyed the consistency because of the ease of virtual scheduling and the comfort of participating in sessions from home.
Nonetheless, here we are a few months in and if I am being frank, I’m exhausted. I like to say I feel grad-school tired. But despite the exhaustion and busy days, I really enjoy teletherapy. Maybe it’s because of the rewarding feeling when I connect with a client, especially when they are there waiting for me with a smiling face, or maybe it’s because of the opportunities to talk with and support parents/caregivers — I’m not sure I can say it’s just one thing, but I am here and I am enjoying it all!
Written by: Eliana Echeverry M.A.CCC-SLP
#Teletherapy #Speechlanguagepathologist #Change #Crisis #COVID19 #Distancelearning #Outpatient #Schoolbasedservices #Pediatrictherapy #Treatmentplanning