Virtual Speech Tele-Therapy during and after COVID-19

One of our Bright Start Speech Therapists recently sat down via Zoom with one of our families to talk about their experience using virtual teletherapy during COVID-19, and even beyond. It’s amazing what’s possible when you have passionate, smart, caring people who always go the extra mile to serve.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Kelli :
All right guys, we are recording. And I just want to go ahead and introduce myself. My name is Kelli and I am a speech language pathologist with Bright Start. And I am being joined today with Elizabeth and she is one of the parents of a sweet little girl named Parker that we serve at Bright Start. And today we are going to be talking a little bit about teletherapy and our journey with teletherapy. And we’re going to be talking a little bit about home visits and our coaching model. But before we get into this, I am assuming that you guys are probably watching us from one of our social media platforms. So if you are, I would love if you would drop in the comments how you found us? Who you are? Are you a parent? Are you a speech pathologist? Are you an early interventionists? What profession are you joining us from or what area?

Kelli :
And then I’d love to find out where you guys are geographically. I love knowing where our audience is, and we’re just starting the series where I’m kicking it off with me and Elizabeth today. But this is going to be an ongoing series that we do talking about different topics, educating and helping people know a little bit more about us and what we do and how we serve families across the state of South Carolina. I’m in Charleston, and Elizabeth is actually up around the Columbia area, which are two of the areas that Bright Start serves, but we’re actually across the entire state of South Carolina.

Kelli :
So we would just love to get to share different ways that we can serve the families of South Carolina. And if you have any questions, drop those in the comments too, and we will get back to them. And do you have any ideas about things you’d like to hear about, or like to hear us teach on or talk more about. Drop those in the comments too to help us make sure we’re giving you guys information going forward that is relevant and useful to you all. So without further ado, we’re going to go ahead and hop on into the conversation. So Elizabeth, I just want to thank you for joining us today.

Elizabeth :
Yes. Thank you so much for having me.

Kelli :
Yes, absolutely. We called her during Parker’s nap time, so we have all of her attention today. And we’re just going to go ahead and jump in. So Elizabeth and I met last year in March, and I was able to take them on as a teletherapy case when COVID started and we began giving services from our homes via teletherapy, and they were one of my first clients. And so I would, I guess, first let’s just talk about that a little bit. Elizabeth, what was that like, going from an in-person, in home session to having your therapists join you via teletherapy in your home but not in your home?

Elizabeth :
Yeah, it’s funny to look back on that almost feels like a lifetime ago. But, okay. So I remember we had just recently switched to Bright Start and we did have a wonderful SLP who was meeting with Parker weekly in person. And we already felt like we were learning so much and really excited to have our then SLP working with her and then COVID hits. And I remember she called me and she’s like hey, everything’s kind of shutting down. And at that time she had to step back and connect me with Kelli. And she said I’ve got this great person, it’s going to be over tele-health, she’s in Charleston. I just want you to give it a try and see what you think. And for various reasons, my schedule, her schedule not aligning, this seemed like the way we needed to go. And I trusted her at the time to really connect me with somebody that was going to be right for our family.

Elizabeth :
And so we took that leap and it was a little bit like, kind of like, how is this going to work through tele-health? Speech therapy just doesn’t seem like something you do this way. But we jumped in and we had a wonderful person to guide us through that process, which was Kelli. And she kind of was doing a lot of the same things that we were seeing with our former SLP with Bright Start doing but it was happening over the phone somehow.

Elizabeth :
And the reason I feel like it was working so well was because Kelli was first of all, just getting to know Parker and meeting her where she was and kind of figuring out what’s Parker like, what makes her excited, what does she get happy about? And then channeling that with games and songs and activities that she was then teaching me and I could carry this over from week to week until we would meet again and talk. And so it was just this really cool experience that I didn’t know if it was going to feel organic. And I feel like we were all able to get the same benefits that you would out of in-person therapy. But then here I am almost a year later and I feel like we’ve gotten so many benefits from it.

Kelli :
Yeah. Well, what do you feel like, because a lot of us went back to in-person in June, and I know you had to make the decision whether to continue with teletherapy, whether to go back to in-person. What made you feel like teletherapy for you all was the way to go and the service that was still going to be able to be beneficial for you guys?

Elizabeth :
Yeah, we debated that. We knew that the world was essentially going back to normal in a lot of ways come June. And we were having to make all these decisions about the health of our family and Parker’s development and just weighing so many things. And for us, we just felt like we had made leaps and bounds through tele-health from the time we started with you in late March until that point where summer was beginning, we just seeing this transformation within Parker, we were seeing a transformation in what we were doing with her on a daily basis. And it just felt like we had gained so much momentum. I was almost scared to let it go. Even though I know we could have also gotten tons of benefits going back to in-person. It was at the end of the day, all of a sudden, like a no brainer. We had gained so much from our times spent with you and your sessions that it just seemed like there’s no reason to give this up if we don’t have to right now.

Kelli :
Yes. Well, that actually brings me to the next point, which is our model of services. So for those of you who don’t know, we do something called a coaching model, which means that we are really working hard to empower the parents, help them feel like the expert on their child. We’re working very closely with the parents to help them figure out what are the areas where we can come in and help and help give them some more tools and some more skills and some ways of doing things that will work better for them while continuing to work on the goals that we have set together for the child. And this is a very different type of therapy than I used to do. Our therapy used to be very focused on the child. I worked directly with the child and the parent kind of watched, or sometimes didn’t watch, they didn’t often engage.

Kelli :
I think sometimes the parents thought I was the expert and they were just watching and I knew what to do. And so they may be just sat back for an hour and then often that really impacted carry over. And so when we learned the coaching model at Bright Start and began to implement it in the homes, I saw such a shift in my sessions that I saw such a shift in my families. And so I do think that the coaching model is probably a lot of why telehealth was very successful because at some model that would be very similar to what we would have done in person anyway. However, how do you feel about the coaching model? Because I know your early interventionists uses the coaching model, and I know that I use the coaching model with you, but I know you’ve also had other services where you didn’t have the coaching model. So how do you feel like, what are the benefits? What are the drawbacks? I mean, what do you feel about that? Has it been positive or are there areas where it was hard for you? Truly honest feedback.

Elizabeth :
Yeah. So personally the coaching model has been a huge hit in our family. I mean, true confession, I’m a kindergarten teacher. So love of learning is instilled in me anyways. And that’s what I feel like the coaching model has to offer. It’s a chance to learn, it’s a chance to, you’re not becoming your child’s therapist, but your therapist is empowering you to feel like you’re meeting the needs of your child when your therapist is not around. And that’s the biggest thing for me, Kelli or anybody else wasn’t showing up at my house with a big bag full of toys that we didn’t have, or materials that I didn’t know how to get my hands on, and doing things with Parker and then leaving. Not that there can’t be benefits from having those toys or those materials, but the nice thing was it was never about that. It was always about creating really organic experiences for Parker, for me, for my husband, to just keep doing what we were doing as a family, but always adding on another layer to make it richer for Parker.

Elizabeth :
Oh, so you guys already do a bedtime routine? Great. Let’s talk about how we’re going to incorporate this kind of language experience into that. Oh, tell me a little bit about how bath time’s going. Hey, let’s try to add on another layer. And it’s always just kind of been like taking how we are, who we are and where we are, and just building on top of it so that the language experiences for Parker become richer and richer and richer and in so doing, we’ve seen her essentially go from not very verbal to now, we have tons of signs that she’s using and she’s becoming more expressive with her words all the time. And even just the evolution of her babble we’ve seen and it’s just been really, really, I mean, empowering, and I don’t think my husband or I would ever look back and wish we had done it any other way. I feel like we’ve all gained so much as a family from the coaching model.

Kelli :
Yes. Oh, I love to hear that and I’m so glad that it has not felt like one more thing to do, and one more thing to be added to your plate, but more just something to build on an area you were already using in something that you were already doing. And that’s always our goal because I’m a mom too. And as a mom, I know that some days we’re just doing our best to survive and to get a bath and to get dinner on the table and to connect with our child in those very simple ways and adding a whole other aspect wouldn’t be possible a lot of days. But adding a little bit extra into something I’m already doing, that seems a lot more feasible and a lot more manageable. So I’m glad that you find that to be the case as well.

Elizabeth :
Do I also feel like, and I’m going to just piggyback off what you said about, just not adding one more thing to do, but kind of just refraining what you’re already doing. For me, it’s created a lot more mindful parenting moment. So I’m really grateful for that. It takes something small like walking down the street with Parker, it turns it into an experience that it may not have become if I wasn’t thinking what are the things I can ask her about? What are the things we can talk about and have her notice? And it just helps me be more present and mindful in my parenting with Parker.

Kelli :
Oh, I love that, I love that. Well, thank you so much for being willing to hop on and share a little bit about all of this with us. And hopefully those of you watching we’re able to get some really good information and maybe it’s even gotten your wheels in your own head turning about things that you’re already doing in your life that maybe you can use to help your own kiddos, or if you are a therapist or an interventionist joining us, maybe it’s gotten you thinking about ways that you can bring this model into your own families that you’re serving and meet them where they are and help them be empowered and become the experts on their own children. And like Elizabeth just said, help them more mindfully parent and make those connections. So thank you guys for joining us. Elizabeth, thank you so much for hopping on with me, I really appreciate it. And until next time guys.

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