As I sit here thinking about the outbreak of COVID-19, I feel the apprehension of what lies ahead swirling around me. For all of the SLPs out there that are being thrust into into Telepractice, I understand your uncertainty. When I first considered Telepractice because of some health challenges I faced 8 years ago, I was skeptical. I had been an SLP working onsite for 24 years, how was I going to provide services via a computer? Telepractice for our profession was just starting to take hold. I realized I had the clinical skills needed, I just needed to learn the technology (i.e., type of service delivery).
Here I am today, 8 years later and I never really looked back. If I could only share 5 Telepractice tidbits with you, they would be the following:
- Breathe…Inhale for the count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for the count of 4 – if you’ve used FaceTime or Skype, you’ve encountered part of what Telepractice looks like. Most teletherapy platforms aren’t that different from those video-conferencing apps.
- Find someone to meet you online to help you practice using the Telepractice platform: friends, grandkids, siblings, etc. Practice, Practice, Practice! The more you practice using the platform’s tools, the more fluid your presentation will become which will develop your self-confidence. Be kind to yourself. Don’t expect perfection.
- Best practice: put your best foot forward and PREPARE. Sign onto the platform 10-15 minutes before your first session of the day, allowing time to troubleshoot any technical difficulties. Be punctual. Dress professionally (if you wouldn’t wear it to the office, don’t wear it to teletherapy). Avoid session interruptions by anyone or anything while you are working with clients. Always over-prepare (have extra materials and activities at the ready).
- Properly shutting down your computer each evening (closing the laptop or putting it into “sleep” mode does not constitute proper shutdown) and turning it on to start fresh each morning will eliminate the possibility of technology glitches. Only open the necessary websites you need for each client as you go along and close them afterward.
- Connect your computer to the router using an Ethernet cable, if at all possible. Ask your client to sit as closely to their router as possible. If your client is using WiFi, ask if the parent could have others in the household abstain from using the WiFi during your session. This will eliminate most tech problems you might otherwise encounter.
I wish I could say that your Telepractice sessions will go swimmingly without exception, but knowing technology, all I can suggest is – be flexible. Show yourself some self-love and patience. The worst thing that could happen? You have to reschedule the session. If you learn from each tech experience, you are always moving forward.