4 Things You Should Know to Prepare for Telepractice Assessment

Providing teletherapy requires a skill set that we were not necessarily taught in college.  Add to that the need to assess students virtually and you will find SLPs requesting more information.  What are some basic things you need to know to boost your self-confidence when it comes to telepractice assessments?  Read on to find out.

First, know the technology.  Depending on the assessment and the subtests, read through the stimulus items to determine if you will need to visually observe the client pointing to an object on his/her screen.  If so, how will you implement that?  If the client has an external webcam, you could ask the tele-facilitator to hold the webcam behind the client, allowing you to view the responses as if looking over the client’s shoulder.  If you do not have access to an external webcam, ask the tele-facilitator to join the meeting using a phone or an iPad, using that as a camera.  Depending on the method you choose, be sure to practice it with the tele-facilitator (e.g., parent) before the assessment.

Second, know the assessment platform as well as the tests you will be using.  Learn how to sign on to the platform, how to enter as well as set up your client’s information, find the assessments you will use, and locate the manuals along with the stimulus materials.  Preparation involves reviewing the administration manual’s directions and the items.  Be sure to review items throughout each subtest to avoid any surprises as the task requirements may change as you proceed through the age-ranges covered in each subtest.  Familiarize yourself with the type of required responses (e.g., pointing, stating the number or letter of the item) as well as what are considered “acceptable.”  Be sure to let the tele-facilitator know if he/she may need to observe as the client touches items in a specific order per the subtest’s directions.

Third, know your client.  Does the client know the letters of the alphabet or numbers if required to respond using those?  Will your client require frequent breaks?  Will you need the client to wear a headset if he/she is soft-spoken or demonstrates misarticulations?  Having the parent complete a case history form prior to the evaluation can give insight into any difficulties and/or behaviors exhibited by the client which will be helpful especially if it is an initial evaluation.  Will the client need visual reinforcement throughout the testing such as using a Time-Timer to understand when the testing will be completed or when the next break will occur?

Fourth, know your behavioral expectations and share those.  Explaining to your client and the tele-facilitator the behavioral expectations can help an assessment go smoothly.  If you are assessing a younger student, using a reward system after completing a specific number of subtests or working a certain amount of time may help to guide the session.  For example, when assessing preschoolers and early elementary students, I provide a visual reward system and after each subtest, the student receives a smiley face on a chart.  After receiving a specific number of “smileys,” the student receives a reward (i.e., a break) such as getting up to stretch, wiggle, dance, or watch a 2-minute video before continuing.  The reward is based on the client’s age, interest, and ability to focus during the assessment.

This also includes going over your behavioral expectations for the tele-facilitator.  Briefly explaining what the assessment is testing as well as asking him/her to not prompt, cue, or answer for the client (because you need to assess whether-or-not the client knows the information) will allow you to assess the client successfully.  Also explaining what you will need the tele-facilitator to do for each assessment or subtest (e.g., hold the external webcam/phone/iPad from behind the client, aiming it toward the screen) will allow him/her to assist you properly.

This blog post discussed four things you need to know before conducting an assessment.  From being familiar with the technology, the assessments, the client, and the tele-facilitator – all these pieces could “make or break” an evaluation.  One final but critical point that should be emphasized – practice.  Practice – using the technology, the assessment platform, the assessment materials, on your own and with the tele-facilitator before conducting the assessment.

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