Young children from birth and up can receive speech and language services through a telepractice model by having the SLP collaborate with parents and caregivers.
When telepractice began gaining momentum over a decade ago, SLPs and clients alike began treading lightly on this new service delivery model. Fifteen years after ASHA published the initial position statement in favor of telepractice as an effective service delivery model, a majority of speech-language pathologists have been thrust into this virtual format overnight. The evidence base for the effectiveness of delivering speech services to young children was just beginning to form in the early days of telepractice. Due to the recent mandate of shelter-in-place, many providers of services to the Early Intervention population have been flexible in allowing telepractice. One of the most popular service delivery models for younger children is parent coaching.
In simple terms, parent coaching is a system of doing therapy in which the therapist will seek input from the family in developing a plan of care for the client. In order to optimize your coaching sessions, your SLP may incorporate the following components into your therapy sessions.
Realistic Expectations – Your therapist will likely have a conversation with you ahead of time to set up realistic expectations about the parent coaching session. It is important to note that there may be an adjustment period for you and your child as there is with any in person therapist. Frustrating sessions during which children may be uncooperative or throw tantrums may happen in telespeech as they do with in person therapy. With consistency and patience, these behaviors should subside as you and your child adjust to the routine.
Parent Feedback – It is very beneficial to dedicate a portion of your session to gather ideas from you as the primary caregiver and educator of your child. You should expect your therapist to ask you questions to guide you in developing a unique therapy plan with activities that will motivate your child. The therapist should also ask for feedback on how your child responded to the homework plan you discussed during previous sessions. This is the time to be honest with your therapist about any concerns or questions and be open to their guidance.
Predictable Routine – A common practice among therapists working with young children is to create predictable routines within a therapy session. There are many ways to create these routines so that children start anticipating a beginning, middle and end to therapy sessions. This structure provides predictability and security which is what young children crave. Your therapist may use a visual schedule to outline what you and your child will be learning during each session. In addition, she may begin and end each session with a predictable song to cue your child and help ease difficult transitions.
Use of Real Objects – Your child learns best with tangible objects from their naturalistic environment. Your SLP will likely have you gather favorite toys and books to use during your sessions. Even everyday objects around the house such as cups, spoons, soap, and towels can be transformed into vehicles for imaginative play and language expansion. Daily rituals such as breakfast, brushing teeth and bedtime routines are wonderful learning opportunities where parents can model language expansion and enjoy time bonding with their children.
As you can see, online speech therapy opens up a world of opportunity for your young child to hone their speech and language skills. By collaborating closely with your SLP, you will develop a successful therapy plan that will guide you as the primary caregiver to reinforce effective communication strategies with your child throughout the week.
By Karin H. Koukeyan, MS, CCC-SLP