TeleHelpers – Part 1

Many people have asked me, so what type of things should I ask of my telehelper? “The person I have brings the students, sits off to the side, does not take part in therapy, then takes the students back to class. How do I go about asking/requiring him/her to be more involved?” That is a great question!  Below, I provide many things to think about before beginning to work with a telehelper. If possible, I encourage you to request that you be a part of the school district’s Telehelper -hiring and -training process. OK, here we go…
Be sure to request a consistent tele-helper.  During the span of 1 school year, I had 8 different tele-helpers.  Be sure that the company you contract with requires this of the school district.  Once you have a person that has learned your system of organization, behavior management, materials needed, HIPAA-compliance requirements, etc., it is difficult to train a new person mid-stride.
Write a letter to your tele-helper to tell him/her about yourself as an introduction.  I recommend calling him/her, but unfortunately, you may not know who your tele-helper is until the first day of teletherapy services.
Put together a list of materials you would like your tele-helper to have on hand and be sure to get approval ahead of time to receive reimbursement for any materials you want purchased for Teletherapy. The schools usually have monies for necessary supplies. Consider items such as:  crayons, markers, extra paper, construction paper, stapler, glue sticks, stickers, sticker charts, construction paper, etc.
Your tele-helper should have access to a colored printer/copier/scanner allowing him/her to scan in forms to email you (e.g., IEP signature page).  Be sure to ask him/her for his/her email address and cell phone number to send him/her materials and call if you experience technical difficulties logging on.
I recommend putting together a list of expectations for your tele-helper.  Do you want him/her to wait until you log in, in the morning, before going to go pick up the students or do you want him/her to get the students at exactly the scheduled time so that they are ready to go once you log in?  Do you want him/her to sit next to the students during teletherapy or over to the side?  Do you want him/her to step in if a student is misbehaving or wait for you to say something? If a student is having a difficult time focusing, what do you want the telehelper to do, exactly?
Plan for the type of behavior reinforcement program you want to implement.  Educate your tele-helper about the process.  I had set up a system where my students would receive a sticker after each successful session and after 10 stickers, the student earned 10 minutes of “free time” playing one of the games I had available on my Google Chrome webpage.  The student has fun playing games that are not Speech/Language specific, but I incorporate questions, social skills, vocabulary, etc. while s/he is playing the game.  The telehelper kept track of the number of stickers the students had, notifying me if someone had reached the required “10” to receive his/her “free time.”
One of my requirements for my tele-helper is that s/he needs to follow along during each teletherapy session. Last year, my tele-helpers sat off to the side, out of my view, and would either study or would be texting.  Be diligent.  My tele-helper the year before was fabulous. She would jot down words that we worked on that teletherapy session on the reinforcement page (e.g., vocabulary, articulation drill words), and I would have her write to the parents (on that same page), “Ask your child what s/he worked on in ‘Speech Class’ today!”
Another suggestion is asking your tele-helper to converse with the student when s/he picks up the student bringing him/her to therapy (asking how the student’s morning is going) and when walking him/her back to class (asking the student what s/he remembered working on during the session). This is a great way to incorporate generalization. The telehelper can even prompt the student to tell his/her teacher what he/she worked on in therapy, if the situation allows.
Have the tele-helper check with the office in the morning to see if any of your students are absent, if the school has any special activities (i.e., school assembly), and if any classrooms have field trips that day.
Go through the tele-helper’s HIPAA-compliance responsibilities for the Speech Teletherapy computer, any documents with students’ names on them, etc.  She or he needs to have access to the computer’s password as well as the password to log into the video-conferencing system.  The computer should also be stored in a locked drawer/cabinet, or a locked room, etc.  You may well be the person that will need to address these imporant guidelines.
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