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Let’s Talk Teletherapy!

As we all know, last year, our lives were flipped-turned upside down, (a little Fresh Prince of Bel-Air shout out to get things started on a light note) and we all had to dive deep into all things tele whether it be for school or therapy. Sure, it is new, but that does not mean it has to be boring! Here are some of my favorite tips on how to keep teletherapy intriguing, exciting, and fun for all of our tele needs.

Tip #1: Sometimes, things are going to be awkward and THAT’S OKAY!

We all can get tired of staring at a screen and building that connection/rapport can be tricky over Zoom, as this is new to all of us. Teletherapy creates a whole new experience, that is going to feel different than an in-person environment, but that is not a bad thing. There are lots of pluses to teletherapy, a great one being I cannot bring my dog to in-person therapy but guess who gets to make guest star appearances in my tele sessions? Who would say no to meeting a furry friend?! Basically, it is important to keep an open mind and to set no expectation when starting your teletherapy journey!

Tip #2: Setting Up the Right Environment

Let’s talk about setting the stage… “lights, camera, ACTION!” (literally.) When it comes to teletherapy finding the right environment to complete online learning can be tricky, but here are some things I always like to remind my parents. We need good lighting and a camera—it is the start to all great films, so why not teletherapy? Without proper lighting and technology (e.g. laptop, iPad, cell phone with a camera/microphone), how can we start a session? This can be done by finding a well-lit, quiet room with minimal distractions and proper seating. We want our “stage” to be a distraction free zone for therapy if possible, this includes: putting away distracting toys (unless being used for therapy) and minimizing other distractions such as TV (Cocomelon, anyone?) , siblings, etc.

Tip #3: “Let’s Make A Plan and Figure This Out” (lyrics from my good friend Daniel Tiger)

I love collaborating with my parents when it comes to their kids and setting them up for success! Sometimes our friends need a little extra support to tolerate a teletherapy session. This can include having visual supports such as schedules, lists, and timers, some redirection skills (e.g. if they are playing with a super fun car… “I think it is time to park the car in the garage” or “oh, I think it might be out of gas” to redirect to the therapy activity), and even fun token boards (because online sticker charts can only be so exciting.) Letting the child know the expectation of therapy and motivating them to work towards their goal is a HUGE part of making teletherapy successful.

Tip #4: Teletherapy is a No-Judgment Zone

Now listen, therapy can be hard. Your child is working on different things that can be difficult for them and it can be frustrating! If you sense a breakdown coming or we are mid-tantrum, I always like to remind parents that we can take deep (“rainbow” or “bee” for my younger friends) breaths or even go to a “calm zone” away from the teletherapy space until we are calm and ready to go! This “calm zone” can have lots of fun things such as cozy pillows/animals to squeeze, bubbles, or even homemade sensory bins. Sometimes, we just need a break and having a safe space for your child to calm down is an important aspect of any therapy (whether in-person or tele) because they need to know that they can take a break, if needed!

Tip #5: Have Fun!

I have four rules for therapy.

  1. Turn your listening ears ON! (testing, testing 123…can you hear me?)
  2. Eyes on me (or the screen)
  3. Show me your big strong muscles because we need to WORK HARD!
  4. AND lastly, the best rule of all and my personal favorite, HAVE FUN!

Yes, therapy is about working towards meeting our goals, but who says we can’t have fun while were doing it?

Madison Stewart, SLP