I don’t know about you but when Teletherapy first made its presence known in our field, I was skeptical. How would I build rapport with my students over a computer? How would I serve my students and families with more significant needs or that use augmentative and alternative communication? Plus, I really love working in person with my students and families!
However, life takes its own path and sometimes we need to roll with it. That is how I became a part-time SLP teletherapist. I just started my third year as a teletherapist and I have learned several life lessons and realized that working as a teletherapist has some amazing advantages to the brick and mortar locations!
WORK FROM HOME
The most obvious is the benefit of working from home! As a mother, I have found it incredibly helpful to my family that I work part-time from home because I do not have to always race home before my child does after school. Also, when she is not at school because she is sick well I am still able to work while taking care of my child. Two added bonuses are that I do not have to worry about battling traffic and I save gas money! To me, those are all Wins!
NO WORRIES DURING COLD/FLU SEASON
Since I am not there in person, my chances of catching ‘a bug’ from one or more of my students are diminished. Haha! Exposure to illness is decreased to just the ‘bugs’ that my own child may bring home from school (or my husband from the hospital where he works). At the same time, I am not able to pass along any cold or flu bugs when I am ill. In fact, I am also able to continue working and taking care of myself when I have a cold.
FLEXIBILITY IN SCHEDULING
A huge benefit is the ability to request part-time work! I know that for some school districts it is really difficult to get part-time when you are the on-site SLP. Speech-Language Pathologists are in such great demand in the schools (everywhere really) that many school districts want you full-time or not at all as they will find someone who will accept their full-time demands. As a teletherapist, it is much easier to get part-time if that is what you want. Also, since you may be providing services to children in a different state, there may be a time difference that allows you flexibility in your schedule too. For example, I now live in North Carolina but I currently provide services to children in California so that is a three-hour difference. That means that my day starts a little later than if I was an on-site SLP. Also, since you work at home, you can start that laundry during lunch and keep up with housecleaning a little easier!
Yes, I’m living the dream on the days that I work as a teletherapist! Huge caseloads have been an issue in pretty much every school, district, and state that I have worked as an on-site SLP. When I am providing services via teletherapy, my groups are limited typically to two students. The max I have had is three students but that is rare for me! Can you imagine how much more can we get done and the great amount of growth our students can make when we are only seeing one to two students each session?
COMFORT IS KEY
So the old joke (but true reality) is that we get to sit around in our pajama bottoms and yoga pants. However, that is not the only comfort that can occur with being a teletherapist. A lot of my favorite students also happened to be some of the more aggressive students, unfortunately. Why? The aggression was sometimes the result of frustration in not being able to communicate. Most of us have had our share of bites, kicks, hits, pinches, and being spit on. As a teletherapist, I do not need to worry about coming home bruised and battered (though I always warn my e-helper if a student has a history of such behavior and typically the student will have their own behavior aide to help out) again.
GROW AS AN SLP
Although I left this as the last advantage, I feel it is truly the number one reason I enjoy teletherapy! When you are providing services via the computer you have to be more animated and think outside the box more to keep students engaged. How do you keep that little one that just turned three engaged in therapy for the full 30 minutes when it is on the computer? How will you facilitate and support communication through AAC? What reinforcers can you provide the student with behavioral concerns to keep them on task? I have had to think about all these and really stretch myself as a Speech-Langauge Pathologist to come up with answers that I never would have considered prior to being a Teletherapist.
If you want to learn more about teletherapy and if it might be a good fit for you, I recommend you check out Spilling the Tea on Teletherapy (a youtube video about the pros and cons) and Is Teletherapy Right for Me? (an e-book about teletherapy).