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3 Myths about Teletherapy

In-house therapists now have to provide teletherapy without the proper platforms and without any formal teletherapy training.

Perspectives

As we reach a point where all schools are currently closed and with the reality of not knowing when they will be reopened, educators are being forced to adapt to a new way of teaching and learning. In the special education space, there is even more of a struggle with multiple teachers and therapists being involved in the education plan. In-house therapists now have to provide teletherapy without the proper platforms and without any formal teletherapy training. Typically, there is a fear of the unknown, but as you dive into teletherapy, you will see that there are not many differences.

Here are three common myths in regard to teletherapy:

  1. Is teletherapy as effective as on-site therapy?
  2. Will students be as engaged as they are in-person?
  3. Can I really hold a successful IEP (individualized education plan) meeting virtually?
With COVID-19 and schools forced into on-line learning across the country, no doubt there will be an abundance of new studies on the effectiveness of teletherapy; however, current research shows that it can truly be as effective as in-person therapy.
With COVID-19 and schools forced into on-line learning across the country, no doubt there will be an abundance of new studies on the effectiveness of teletherapy; however, current research shows that it can truly be as effective as in-person therapy.

Let’s start with teletherapy being as effective as on-site therapy. With COVID-19 and schools forced into on-line learning across the country, no doubt there will be an abundance of new studies on the effectiveness of teletherapy; however, current research shows that it can truly be as effective as in-person therapy. One such example is The Waldo County Hospital in Maine, which conducted a three-year study from 2009-2012 and found that children who received speech therapy via telepractice outperformed the national benchmark for children with similar diagnostic and demographic backgrounds (Towey, 2012). In addition, the socio-emotional well-being of students has been a recurring theme in most schools’ strategic plans. Teletherapy for mental health services is becoming more and more commonplace today because of the ease with which it can be done, the comfort level of kids with technology, and the anonymity of the whole experience. E-Therapy’s founder and Speech-Language Pathologist, Diana Parafiniak, adds,

Teletherapy has been a game changer for therapists and students. There are so many under-served students that have not had consistent therapy services; telepractice allows all students across the country access to therapy. In addition, now that all schools find themselves in a remote learning environment, teletherapy is more important now than ever! The telepractice service delivery model supports students at home (and their families) to still receive related services, work on their IEP goals, making sure that students are successful both in academics and functional performance.

The second myth is that children will not be as engaged online as they would be onsite. The simple truth is, kids love technology! Children today are “Digital Natives” and communication and engagement take place online, through text, social media, and “FaceTime”. Most children are highly motivated and feel very comfortable in front of a technology device. Children as young as two years old know how to manipulate phones and computers. Using an interactive computer activity can get your “hard to sit still” kiddos engaged. If these “wiggly” children are still having trouble sitting still, take wiggle breaks! Stand up and shake it out! Technology today allows you to be able to move around. Do the same things you would do if they were in front of you. For older kids, it’s easy, the stigma of being “pulled out” for therapy is decreased and the comfort level is increased. These teens feel more comfortable communicating with another person through a computer screen. Let’s face it, you can create a connection just as easy: just be yourself, be confident, and available.

Children today are “Digital Natives” and communication and engagement take place online, through text, social media, and “FaceTime”.
Children today are “Digital Natives” and communication and engagement take place online, through text, social media, and “FaceTime”.

Finally, can you have an effective and successful IEP meeting on-line? The answer is, of course! All the same things that made your “in-person” meetings successful will make your virtual meetings successful. You are going to invite the same team members, go over the same materials, and check off the same checklists. The only thing that has changed is, you are more reliant on technology. It is even more important to have the right platform, make sure your platform is secure and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) compliant and also able to track data in real-time. Make sure the tele-conferencing rooms are private and secure so that there is no chance of someone “bombing” your session. Team members and students should not have to sit in a virtual “waiting room” so be sure to arrive early for your meeting to greet the IEP team as they arrive.

To be more confident when holding meetings and providing virtual services, there are a few additional things you can do ahead of time to prepare yourself. Find a quiet place in your home with minimal distractions. Make sure you organize yourself and do the same things you would have done to prepare for your on-site sessions and meetings, such as sending invitations and copies of the IEP and having members and attendees email you confirmation that they will be attending the meeting or session. Be sure the digital invitation has the log-in information. If possible, log into the meeting at least 5-10 minutes ahead of time to make sure your technology is working properly. Once the meeting starts, do your welcome and introductions, just as would have in person. Always remember that if you are recording the session, you do need to get permission from all the participants. Now, take a deep breath and have your meeting! You’ve got this!  The more you do it, the more confident you will feel.

There is no going back into an “old normal,” schools will start back in the fall looking very different and teletherapy will be just one of many of those differences.


Towey, Michael. (2012). Speech Therapy Telepractice for Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD): MaineCare (Medicaid) Cost Savings. International Journal of Telerehabilitation. 4. 10.5195/ijt.2012.6095.

With a degree in English and Secondary Education the author has worked in the education space for over 20 years. Her passion for education has placed her at E-Therapy as a Business Development Manager. E-Therapy has been the leading pioneer of teletherapy since 2009 providing both tele therapists to schools in need of services as well as licensing their HIPAA and secure platform.

: www.electronic-therapy.com

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