SBB: How do you keep kids engaged in teletherapy sessions?
TW: One key to engagement during sessions is switching quickly between activities. With all of the stations in our sessions, it’s important not to stay on anyone for too long. As I get to know my students, I learn how long I can expect to maintain attention on a single task. I watch for signs of waning attention and am prepared for brain breaks. I use my honorary teletherapy dogs, Bailey and Penny, to help with this! They occasionally stop in to say hello to the client (or beg for treats) and this can provide a much-needed but quick break.
Another key to engagement is monitoring the difficulty of the lesson. It’s important to be aware, especially in the practice sessions, if and when the student requires reteaching. If the content gets too hard a student is apt to disengage. So, being prepared to reteach and keep the content at a just-right level is helpful.
SBB: How do you encourage your clients to practice and play the online exercise games every day between your face-to-face teletherapy sessions?
TW: I engage the parent’s support in encouraging between-session practice. For the most part, as parents and students see progress, they are excited to participate in the practices.
SBB: How do you and your students’ parents work together in a partnership that encourages students’ success?
TW: I encourage parents to attend and participate in our sessions. That way, we are able to use the same terms and reinforcement strategies. Depending on how much time families are able to invest in practice between sessions, I provide recommendations for supplemental materials and practice activities. I see the parent as the main expert on their child’s reading and learning and look to them to guide and support the work I do with their child. This partnership is a major key to the child’s success.
SBB: How do you help the parent make the most of the sessions?
TW: For parents to make the most of the session, I encourage them to stay close by and actively tuned-in to the session. I encourage them to listen to the terms I use and how I use specific terminology to raise their child’s awareness of the language structures. (The parents of my most successful students honestly start to sound like a clinician after a while! They pick up my ways of correcting and praising.) I coach parents in ways to help their student remain relaxed and engaged during the session so that he or she gets the most out of instruction.
SBB: How do you manage behavioral or attention problems as they may arise?
TW: Managing behavior via teletherapy definitely requires some specialized strategies! For the most part, the platform and pace of the lesson mitigate behavior challenges. However, praise and goal setting can be key to minimizing off-task behavior. Beyond that, I depend on parental support. Students with the most behavior challenges need a parent in physical proximity to provide gentle guidance, including praise and correction, and to set expectations.
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Sandie is a speech-language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the private practice sector. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at University of North Carolina Greensboro, and founder/owner of the Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, a private practice in Elkin, NC, and Greensboro, NC, specializing in communication disorders, including disorders of reading and written language.