Know how to roll with the virtual hiccups. Computer freeze, audio gets muted, things happen in their environment that you can’t assist. For example, I started a session with my student and then she opened a new tab so she could hear me but couldn’t see me and I could hear and see her. I flipped my directions and execution of the activity to work on her goal differently and completed the session.
One of the consequences of the pandemic is the dramatic growth of Telehealth and Telemedicine. But how can doctors and providers best care for their patients when they are not physically in front of them? What do doctors wish patients knew in order to make sure they are getting the best results even though they are not actually in the office? How can Telehealth approximate and even improve upon the healthcare that traditional doctors’ visits can provide?
In this interview series, called “Telehealth Best Practices; How To Best Care For Your Patients When They Are Not Physically In Front Of You” we are talking to successful Doctors, Dentists, Psychotherapists, Counselors, and other medical and wellness professionals who share lessons and stories from their experience about the best practices in Telehealth. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kendra T Allison.
Kendra T. Allison is a speech-language pathologist and owner of Speechology communication services PLLC, providing services such as school/facility contracts, evaluations, consultations, and coaching. She specializes in pediatric speech sound disorders, teletherapy strategies, school/facility workload management, and multicultural communication styles. Detroit born and raised Kendra loves a good dance party (or battle) and design/décor projects around her Charlotte NC home.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I have been a licensed speech-language pathologist for about 15 years. Starting college, I thought about engineering and radio/tv broadcasting before stumbling across the communication disorders program. After some research into the job prospects, pay, and workplace options; I decided that speech pathology offered the fulfillment of a “helping” profession, work setting variety, great pay and future options that I needed. I packed up my degrees and belongings and left Western Michigan University for a new life and job in North Carolina, intending to stay for just a few years before doing travel speech contracts. I met my partner early on and stayed longer. After dabbling in many side hustles, I finally felt ready to start my own business delivering communication services in 2021. I enjoy what I do, and also enjoy the breaks from it!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Wow when you have worked with kids, families, and diverse populations, there are lots of fun stories. I’ll talk about an interesting experience while doing consultative work with the severe-profound intellectually disabled population. I was doing an assessment when an individual walked behind and shoved me! It wasn’t hard or aggressive but it did move me out of the way. I looked at her and she mischievously smiled and waved. It was funny because she had just started calling me a “skinny witch” when I greeted her. On a different assessment, another individual came to me, picked up my binder, put it in my hands then walked me out of the room. (shrug) I guess she was over me being there.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Two things can be true” This is my favorite life lesson quote and mantra because it is simple and freeing. It applies to everything. It explains the duality in feelings about relationships and experiences. I use the statement to help process my feelings and understanding about life events. I also use it in counseling parents to ease their concerns on feeling like they’re doing the right thing or have no idea what to do. There is always more than one truth and two things can both be true.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It will sound cliché but I am grateful to my partner for pushing and encouraging me to step out and put my talents and skills to use in building my business. Being very enterprising himself, he is supportive of my need to work, break, save, invest, experiment, and restructure. I am surrounded by an inspiring group of entrepreneurial friends and we have collaborated and supported each other. Of course, my parents and family set the foundation for me feeling empowered to do what I wanted. I am very grateful to my employers for the space to grow, experiment, develop my specific gifts.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how doctors treat their patients. Many doctors have started treating their patients remotely. Telehealth can of course be very different than working with a patient that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity because it allows more people access to medical professionals, but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a patient in front of you?
As a speech-language pathologist working in the schools, I usually travel to my patients whom I will refer to as students. The benefits of having a student in front of me are that I can use strategies and intervention that work best with physical contact. I implement activities that provide visual input and sensory input with hands-on stimulation where they could hold items in their hand and get sensory input from the experience. Also some students like hugs, high fives, and fist bumps. Although I am not much of a hugger, when the student is in front of me, I will oblige a fist bump.
On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a patient is not in the same space as the doctor?
One challenge to not having a student in the same space are that I have had to get creative with how I manage attention issues and negative behaviors in the younger students. Another challenge is that I am not able to use strategies and interventions that require physical contact. But I have developed strategies to solve both challenges.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Best Care For Your Patients When They Are Not Physically In Front Of You ? (Please share a story or example for each.)
5 Things you need to know to best care for your patients/students when they are not physically in front of you:
- Know what motivates them to participate and be compliant with your directions and activities. What kind of behavior reinforcement do they like and respond? For example, one of my students wants to finish speech so he can have a snack. I set a timer (for all sessions), and remind him that once the timer buzzes, we’re finished and he can eat his snack. I have to remind him that the sooner we can start working on goals and start the timer, then he can be finished.
- Know how to build rapport and trust with students through the computer. For example, I ask each student for their favorite song, find it, and tell them we will use it to target their goals and/or use as a music break.
- Know how to build accountability in the students. At the beginning of each session, I tell them what we will do that day and what goal they will be targeting that day.
- Know how to convert in-person therapy strategies and interventions that are usually done with physical contact into being appropriate for the virtual environment. For example, during in-person therapy I use a tongue depressor to show the student how to position their articulators to make a sound. In a virtual session, I’ve had to show them how to use their own finger to position them.
- Know how to roll with the virtual hiccups. Computer freeze, audio gets muted, things happen in their environment that you can’t assist. For example, I started a session with my student and then she opened a new tab so she could hear me but couldn’t see me and I could hear and see her. I flipped my directions and execution of the activity to work on her goal differently and completed the session.
Can you share a few ways that Telehealth can create opportunities or benefits that traditional in-office visits cannot provide? Can you please share a story or give an example?
As a speech-language pathologist working in the schools, we often travel to our patients/students by driving to their school and then walking around the schools to get them for our speech therapy session. With Teletherapy, I can work more efficiently. I can schedule students from two different schools back to back without wasting time driving to schools or walking through hallways looking for them. The benefit to the students is that I can be more flexible in scheduling therapy sessions at optimal times for them. Another benefit is that students who need more sessions a week can get them because I don’t have to physically be in the school to see them. For example, One of my students has a severe speech sound disorder that calls for 3–4 sessions a week. Before teletherapy I was limited in giving those sessions because I could only be at the school 2 days a week. With Teletherapy I can see that student 3–4 times a week from a remote location. Teletherapy also makes speech therapy more accessible and convenient for students who are home schooled because they don’t have to break away from their daily routine and ride to a school location for the session. A great opportunity with teletherapy is that I can use digital activities, videos, and whiteboard seamlessly in one place instead of having to carry a big bag of items around, finding a room with an available white board, or finding a place to set a laptop to show videos. The benefit to kids is they already enjoy engaging with digital activities and shows. I design my sessions like an interactive personalized educational tv show.
Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help facilitate Telehealth. In your personal experiences which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?
Websites with digital activities are the main tool I’ve used. My students love music and there are numerous educational videos on YouTube for us to learn through singing and dancing. Other virtual platform features like whiteboard, screen sharing, and close captioning are a must.
If you could design the perfect Telehealth feature or system to help your patients, what would it be?
It would be a virtual platform with whiteboard, screen sharing, closed caption, onscreen timer, and built in meeting agenda.
Are there things that you wish patients knew in order to make sure they are getting the best results even though they are not actually in the office?
My students all wear headphones with microphones for our sessions. I wish the students’ teachers/parents remembered how much sound their microphones pick up. If they have sounds, noises, and conversations going in their environments, then the microphone transmits it directly into my ears. They forget that even though they can’t hear me since the student is in headphones, I can still hear them because of the microphone. I’m always reminding them of that.
The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring people together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?
VR is exciting. I could envision it bringing us to together in a realistic therapy space.
Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?
I am concerned about how AI could evolve to be a replacement for humans in delivering speech-language pathology services. Human Communication is an art that is nuanced, and best learned from other humans. So I feel optimistic that AI can’t accurately deliver the services.
Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
The movement that I am actively working to inspire is the benefits of teletherapy in the school setting. I created a program to deliver school teletherapy services in a localized low-cost way. I am able to work more efficiently and effectively, and my students have benefitted greatly using my program. The silver lining in the covid storm cloud is that more people were able to see how my teletherapy program works and get the benefits of my services. To toot my own horn, I am very good at speech teletherapy and am developing an online course to teach other school SLPs how to set up their own simple and efficient school therapy program, and create freedom and flexibility using teletherapy.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Follow me on Instagram/Clubhouse/TikTok @kendraTallison. Watch my Youtube channel: Kendra Allison. Go to and share my website www.speechologypllc.com with your SLP friends.
Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.