Teletherapy in International Schools

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Written by Aya Ninomiya

Aya is an occupational therapy consultant for globally mobile families with special needs kids. Is your child set up for success at their international school? Are you feeling overwhelmed and stunned to rebuild a system of support in a new location? Aya is the problem solver and lifestyle coordinator you are not going to want to let go of! Find out more on her homepage:

Does your child’s international school have a diverse learning support team? Are there local English-speaking therapists that could offer school-based sessions? If you answered no, you’ll want to keep reading to see if school-based teletherapy could be the right choice for your child.

How is school-based therapy different from home-based therapy?

The goal of any therapy session is to contribute to your child’s development in one or multiple areas of concern. There is an overlap of needs between home and school and we need to keep in mind that those unique challenges are best dealt in their natural environments.

The main focus of school-based sessions is to contribute to the development of engagement and performance in learning activities like group work, testing, independent study, reading, organized thinking, etc. And the main purpose of home-based sessions is to contribute to the development of self-care and self-management routines around sleep, hygiene, keeping the bedroom tidy, extracurricular schedule, etc.

As kids spend more time at school, issues come up that you might not see at home. After all, your home environment does not have the same social pressures or emotional challenges that he or she might encounter in their classroom.

What can teletherapy offer your child at school?
  1. Portability: The portability of teletherapy means that your child’s therapists can directly observe and support them at school. The closer your therapist can get to your kids in action at school, the better informed they can be — we are looking for triggers and behaviors that may not be captured by the eyes of other professionals. In case of a traditional school visit, children tend to act ‘funny’ when there’s an unexpected guest in the room and the therapist may not get to see the child in their most natural state. 
  2. Communication: Opening up a direct line of communication between your therapist and teacher is added value to your child’s school support. You won’t have to worry about orchestrating information between your child’s specialists. And best of all, you can fully take on the vital role of mama as your child’s advocate; not a therapy assistant, not a caretaker, not a tutor, or a case manager.
    **Always request to be copied into all communication about your child. Transparency is key in this open system of support where everybody is kept informed with a united approach.
  3. Additional Support: A virtual speech and language or occupational therapist or both could be the much needed additional support that your child has been missing at school. Very few international schools are equipped with their own on-site team of therapists. At best, schools have partnered with a local clinic or keep a list of therapists available in the area to make referrals out to.
  4. Collaboration: With virtual therapists, you are moving with your own portable learning support team. And open communication with these therapists who are already familiar with your child can often put schools at ease by preparing a transition protocol.
Online sessions during school hours require coordination and strategy but it’s not impossible! 

School hours take up the best focus and attention out of the kids. This is another reason why therapy at school makes sense especially if you find that your child is too tired after school. 

Here are some questions to go over with your child’s teacher or learning support coordinator or both to make teletherapy work at school:

  • What is the student struggling with most at school right now?
  • What has worked and what hasn’t worked to improve this situation?
  • Who can regularly join sessions to support the continued use of strategies in the classroom? — classroom assistant, personal aide, tutor.
  • Is there a computer or tablet available for my child? or should we organize to bring or keep it there?
  • What’s the best time to have teletherapy sessions? 

For example, your child could work on reading goals with the teletherapist during reading class if there is space and sound is tolerable. But if your child has a hard time focusing because they might be worried about classmates seeing him working on something different, a pull-out session may be best if a room is available. 

The best set-up is designed as a result of discussion between you, the child when appropriate, the classroom teacher, assisting personnel, and teletherapist. If you don’t feel comfortable tackling these questions on your own, you can request for a joint meeting between yourself and the teletherapist present. 

Even if we’re all speaking English, someone needs to interpret jargon for the team.

The learning support team could consist of various specialists and professionals depending on the target student population of the school. And the language varies based on where the specialist was trained and practiced. 

An in-service training by a teletherapist is essential for the teaching team to prepare and welcome your child with special needs into the classroom and school environment. Even if your child’s needs are common like ADHD or autism, it is always worth briefing the school team about your child’s specific learner profile. 

You can collaborate with the teletherapist in preparation for this new support for your child at school. Remember, you are your child’s best advocate.

The teletherapist could be the medical interpreter for your child’s teaching team. And the teletherapist could reversely be the educational interpreter for you. 

Teletherapists add to the support system that international schools are missing.

In recent years, more international schools are moving towards a tiered system in order to support and maintain a healthy ratio of student support needs. This prepares the school with a preventative measure by offering universal screenings for early detection in developmental delays. However, this doesn’t mean that every school is committed to moving towards this model. And it certainly doesn’t mean that all schools are set up and ready with a support team as we might expect.

A virtual therapist can lead a smooth transition back to school life.

After long holidays, children struggle to get back into school routines: getting ready for school in the morning, learning alongside others, and needing to take turns, switching from play mode to study mode, etc. Teletherapists could offer grounding strategies with extra support and communication for a unified home-school approach.

Covid-19 has fast-tracked the adaptation of teletherapy.

The lifestyle of globally mobile families has permanently changed since Covid-19. Many predict that travel and schooling will no longer look the same, and the same things can be said about learning support at school. Especially international schools. So when your children go back to school to some capacity, you can feel confident with your child’s return by consulting with a teletherapist now with school-related goals (and struggles) in mind. 

If you’d like to learn more about the teletherapy services provided by Worldwide Speech, head over to our website for a free consultation!