Speech and Language Therapy in a Brave New World

It has been a strange few weeks for all of us with Covid-19 having a life-changing impact upon our personal and professional lives. Lockdown has changed our relationship with our children, as parents become teachers and Speech and Language Therapists become IT experts. Within our Speech and Language Therapy clinic, we have endeavoured to provide a service to as many of our families as possible, using new technologies, such as Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp Video, Microsoft Teams and Zoom. We have set up accounts, managed muted microphones and advised on lighting to improve lip reading. We have solved issues of internet connections and out-of-date software, while finding new ways to manage long-standing challenges, such as siblings taking over therapy sessions and children escaping under the table!

The success of our online therapy is a tribute to the carefully planned sessions which incorporate activities and awards which are present and available to parents at home. The sessions are discussed with parents in advance in order to maximise progress and facilitate a child’s optimum attention and listening. This often involves a short break in which the child may take the therapist for a tour of their toy chest or wander into the kitchen for a snack. Our dedicated team of SLTs have watched plenty of children stock up on biscuits and squash while taking a break from therapy!

Following careful planning, the sessions are then led by the therapist and heavily supported by parents or communication partners. At appropriate moments, rewards are introduced to maintain attention and motivation to the exercises and activities at hand. Parents also majestically juggle the needs of other siblings as well as attempting to keep order and maintain calm. As we evaluate the impact of our therapy, we are finding that children and adult clients make great progress via remote therapy, with families benefiting from being more actively involved in therapy. Through the enforced isolation of lockdown, some families are a little freer to practice activities and reinforce progress, resulting in greater advances between sessions and lasting retention of new skills. We have also been delighted to welcome families from all over the UK, who have found our service online and been keen to avail themselves of more intensive therapy while at home.

So, for anyone interested in having a go at remote Speech and Language Therapy, I would advise you to give it a whirl. We have seen it all and managed it all! And we are realistic — we know about the clutter that accompanies normal life and we don’t mind marmite around mouths and muddy fingers. We are grateful for your efforts to tether your child indoors while the sun shines outside, and we will work hard to make the sessions exciting enough to keep them interested. We have been the SLTs staring down the camera lens as well as being the parents trying to entice their child towards the laptop; we have madly hidden the laundry and wiped the cement-like droplets of Weetabix away before an online session commences; we have been appalled as our child took the laptop to the toilet and later attempted to show the cat’s behind to the school teacher via Zoom! We’ve got the T-shirt, and we are here for you if you need help to access online therapy for children and adults which is fun and effective. We would be delighted to chat to you — your calls brighten up our day. Take care all of our lovely families.

The Speech Clinic is an independent provider of Speech and Language Therapy services to children and adults.

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