Telepractice: Increasing Accessibility

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As 2020 and 2021 have progressed, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the use of teletherapy services during the pandemic. The world has found ways to accommodate one another from a distance, promoting accessibility. Schools have transitioned to online learning, to hybrid, to in-person, and back again. Both students and clinicians have had to learn how to be flexible with their learning/teaching, sometimes without any help.

Accessibility for Students

Before the coronavirus pandemic, many SLPs were wary about telepractice. Our field was concerned about whether or not online services were as effective when provided digitally. Clinicians and board members were resistant to the switch to online services. But not Worldwide Speech!

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Worldwide Speech was founded after realizing a major need for English-speaking therapists for children whose families are a part of the foreign service / mobile community. Erin Long, our President and Founder, decided to take action. For ten years now we’ve been providing online services to families in need of English-speaking therapists while living abroad. In doing so, we are actively increasing the accessibility of therapy services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and special education. From what we have seen and experienced, there is no question that teletherapy is an effective means of treatment for many students.

Interested in learning more about who is a good candidate for teletherapy? Check out our blog, “How to Know if Telepractice is Right for You and Your Child.” Take into account that this blog was written prior to the pandemic, and doesn’t take into consideration what to do if your child doesn’t fit the mold for a good candidate. Even so, there are options for you. We can tailor the length of sessions, frequency of sessions, use of tele-helpers, etc. to make telehealth work for your child if necessary.

Back in March, right before the pandemic, we wrote a blog called, “Recent Research Updates in Telehealth/Telepractice” This blog is helpful and informative, but additional information has been gathered since our field and related fields made the necessary switch to online learning. In summary, what we’ve found is more and more evidence that teletherapy services are just as effective as in-person services, as long as the student is able to maintain focus independently or has an online e-helper such as a parent or guardian to keep them on track.

Below are a few more previous blog posts about teletherapy that we’d like to share for your reference:

Accessibility for Clinicians

We talked extensively about how teletherapy services increase accessibility to students, but we haven’t stopped to think, who else does teletherapy benefit?

As a member of the disabled community, I want to shout, “ME, ME, ME!”

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We tend to focus on how teletherapy increases accessibility to students, forgetting that it also increases accessibility to clinicians. During my graduate school program, I was dealing with substantial health concerns. I spent the majority of my second year in fear that I wouldn’t be able to participate in an internship because of the lack of handicap accessibility for clinicians at schools and private practices. Luckily, I heard another member of my cohort say, “I hope I don’t get the telepractice internship.” I thought, ‘Well I sure do!’ So, I contacted my advisor and was able to get set up with, you guessed it, Worldwide Speech. Suddenly, the fear that I would have to give up the career I loved and worked so hard for faded. I realized there were other options for me.

Right before the pandemic hit, our certifying board took away the ability to complete clinical fellowship years and internships via telemedicine; their rationale being that you can’t possibly acquire all the skills necessary to become a clinician working online. As a disabled clinician, I fought to be allowed to do so. After back and forth conversations shooting down my requests, the pandemic hit. And just like that, all clinicians were allowed to participate in teletherapy.

So, if the pandemic did anything good, it proved that we can make this world accessible for our clients AND clinicians. We have evidence that kids make progress via teletherapy and that graduate student’s/clinical fellows can learn how to practice digitally.

As we wrap up here, I’d like to leave you with a question, “What would the world look like if we continued increasing accessibility to clients and clinicians?” How might our society’s quality of life improve?

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