Technology is reimagining all aspects of our life – and speech therapy is no exception. Every day, more and more people are receiving vital speech and language services through their computer or tablet, connecting with a highly-qualified speech-language pathologist (SLP) with the simple click of a button.
This trend to online speech therapy has only been accelerated with the onset of COVID-19. As many schools, clinics, and public spaces remain closed, families have turned to online speech therapy as a way to continue these vital services.
For many families, this is a new and unfamiliar delivery method. And a million questions abound: What are the differences between online versus in-person therapy? Which one is more effective? Will my little kiddo benefit?
As a speech-language pathologist who’s worked in a variety of settings, including pediatric outpatient clinics, schools, traveling into client’s homes, and online as a teletherapist, I’m going to walk through what online speech therapy look likes, its advantages, research on it’s effectiveness, and who it can help.
What is Online Speech Therapy?
The only real difference between online speech therapy versus a more traditional setting is how services are delivered. With online speech therapy, individuals and families simply connect with their therapist via secure video conferencing (just like a Zoom or Facetime call).
Other than that, the foundational elements are the same. You’re still evaluated by a speech therapist to better understand your challenges and see what type of interventions are appropriate, and your speech therapist still works with you and your family to develop a personalized treatment plan designed to help you reach your communication goals.
What are the Benefits of Online Speech Therapy?
We do everything online these days because, in many cases, it’s more convenient and affordable. These same principles apply to online speech therapy. Below I’ve highlighted a few advantages of this modality.
- Affordability: Hopefully you’re not in this position, but for many families, dealing with the challenges of insurance coverage is an unfortunate reality. It’s no secret that insurance companies are always looking for ways to cut their costs – and often, both developmental and rehabilitative speech therapy all prey. Often, these services are not covered adequately – or at all – by insurance companies.
What’s worse, paying for speech therapy out-of-pocket can be extremely expensive (hundreds of dollars). There’s a reason for this of course – operating a speech therapy clinic isn’t cheap. There are a ton of costs required to run a practice that isn’t associated with your care, like administrative costs, rent, overhead, insurance, and more.
Online speech therapy providers are able to negate nearly all of these costs. As a result, these cost savings get passed down to families utilizing their services. This means you receive the same quality of care at a vastly discounted rate – a win-win for everyone.
- Convenience: Attending speech therapy sessions on a weekly basis can be painfully inconvenient. There are long commute times to the clinic combined with time spent sitting in the waiting room. Plus, many practices operate on standard business hours, which just doesn’t work for busy or working families.
By going online, your licensed speech therapist is a click away. You remove all of this wasted time completely. Plus, you can schedule appointments around your life – not the other way around. For example, many families prefer speech therapy on weeknights after dinner. Others enjoy holding sessions on weekends when they’re less stressed by the workweek. It’s completely up to you!
Online speech therapy is also a perfect option for families that live in rural or remote areas. These families often have to drive long distances and are limited by their selection of speech therapists. With online speech therapy, you have a much larger pool of therapists to choose from and are therefore more likely to find someone specialized to your specific speech and language needs.
- Effective: When making the transition, many parents question whether online speech therapy is as effective as in-person therapy. The answer is a resounding yes. This isn’t just what I’ve seen in my own experience, but it’s supported by the research. There have been several large, landmark studies that have compared both delivery methods, using standardized tests to measure individuals’ progress over a certain period of time. In these studies, online speech therapy was shown to be just as impactful – yet when asked, parents preferred therapy online for it’s added convenience and flexibility. You can read more about these studies here.
- Parent Involvement: Learning any new skill takes practice and patience. Speech and language therapy is no different. The hard truth is that children won’t progress as quickly if the only instruction they receive is with their speech therapist. That is why parents are so important! They help take lessons learned with the therapist and apply them in their child’s everyday life. In fact, research has shown that when parents take an active role in their child’s therapy, children reach their communication goals at a much faster pace.
If your child receives therapy at school or in a clinic, finding this one-on-one time with your speech therapist can be challenging. By going online, your speech therapist comes right into your living room! You can easily sit alongside your child during these sessions and build strong parent-therapist relationships so you can learn and reinforce best practices at home.
Who is Online Speech Therapy Intended For?
Online speech therapy can be used for children and adults of all ages, and is perfect for a variety of speech and language needs. Here is a list of just a few issues and disorders online therapy can help treat:
- Speech and language delays
- Articulation and phonological disorders
- Stuttering and fluency
- Apraxia of speech
- Speech, language, social, and behavioral difficulties due to Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Accent modification and public speaking
- Social skills and development
- Reading readiness
- Voice disorders
- Transgender voice therapy
Some speech and language issues do require a more intensive, hands-on approach. For these conditions, it is generally recommended that families seek in-person services. Examples can include trouble with swallowing, language difficulties due to hearing impairment, and other severe diagnoses.
Many online speech therapy providers offer a free consultation before signing up. During these consultations, you can discuss more you or your child’s condition to see whether online speech therapy is appropriate.