Fall is generally the time we think of in calendar terms as “back to school.” And, it’s a busy time for National Teletherapy Resources (NTR) because now is the period when teachers are evaluating their new students and noticing the challenges they may encounter.
According to Sandy Broderway, MS, CCC-SLP, the owner and director of NTR, more than 6 million children need support to succeed at their education.
“We’re seeing more demand as more children are diagnosed with learning issues,” she says. “In addition, fewer parents and teachers believe a ‘child will grow out of it,’ whatever ‘it’ is. Some deficits can create lifelong challenges if they’re not addressed through therapy.”
The NTR-School Partnership
National Teletherapy Resources specializes in working with schools to provide a variety of therapy services addressing speech and language; occupational deficits; behaviors, attention, and zones of regulation; and mental health issues.
“Many school districts are understaffed, but the demand for speech, behavioral and occupational therapy is growing,” Broderway says. “Our team can step in to provide an effective and personal solution. And, this is especially important as we continue to distance because of COVID-19.”
The conversation generally starts between the parents and the teacher. Either the parent advises the teacher of emerging or ongoing challenges, or the teacher notices something that isn’t being addressed.
Setting Therapy Goals
For example, teachers are often observing how well a child can stay on task, how well they’re reading and comprehending based on age, if they’re able to ask for what is needed, if they can hold a pencil or scissors adequately, or if their speech is easy to understand.
If the child is demonstrating any impairments or deficits in speech, movement, attention or behavior, the teacher will initiate a Response to Intervention. This triggers a series of evaluations.
In assessing and identifying therapy priorities, NTR recommends focusing on the education goals that will most benefit the student.
“Using this information, we map out the approach to therapy guided by the outcomes that will make the biggest difference in improving the student’s performance,” Broderway says.
Is Teletherapy Effective?
People are often curious about the teletherapy platform, Broderway says, especially with something like occupational therapy, which is considered more hands–on.
“It takes training to be able to communicate with the students and special equipment to effectively guide them through the exercises on a video platform,” she says. “For example, if we’re working with a student on handwriting, we have two cameras. One is for the face-to-face conversation and instruction, [and] the other is positioned on the hands so the therapist can see exactly how the hand and fingers are working with the pencil or the scissors.”
“We talk through what changes are needed, and then watch the student adapt to and practice the movements.”
Broderway says students are also more attentive during teletherapy sessions. The student usually wears a headset, which eliminates noise distractions, and the face-to-face interaction through the screen is more focused.
“We believe – and research supports this – that teletherapy is just as effective as in-person therapy, if not more effective under certain circumstances,” she says.
Teletherapy sessions happening in the home creates additional benefits. Another adult is often available to attend the session, watching and learning at the same time as the student. As a result, he/she can intervene when the child is struggling.
“Timely intervention contributes to making regular progress,” Broderway says, “and prevents regression between teletherapy session.”
Discussing deficits and challenges with teachers and therapists can be difficult for parents, Broderway says. “But, we have the best interests of the student at heart and believe that early and consistent therapy will set the child up for success for many years of education to come.”