A Teletherapy Platform: What Is It?
You may or may not have heard the word “platform”, as it relates to Speech-Language Teletherapy. Teletherapists discuss comparisons of “platforms”, stating their preference for one or another. Often, we discuss how a platform works, its specific bells and whistles, or ease for client use.
So what exactly IS a PLATFORM? In the world of telepractice, a “platform” refers to the space on a computer screen that allows us to use our materials to provide a service. As an SLP, I consider my “platform” synonymous to my kidney bean-shaped table. It’s the shared space in close proximity to my students, allowing us to connect and learn together. Like a table, the platform helps me present and use all materials I need for therapy.
Listed below are some features of common teletherapy platforms. These features can be used by both the client and clinician, however, some features the clinician can solely limit and control on her space.
The platform space allows viewing of pdf versions of worksheets, game boards, flash cards, slides, lessons, or photos for therapy
Cameras display both the client and the clinician in large or small icons on the space, providing clear video and audio for communication
Screen Sharing between the client and clinician may be accessible, providing access to anything you can find and use for therapy on the internet
A digital “whiteboard” space, where you can annotate, draw or type information in real time
Some platforms have extra features, including small photos, similar to “emoticons”, animated reinforcements (think gifs), game pieces (spinners, dice, timers), and an ability to document your notes IN-SESSION, rather than on paper and pencil
Platforms are typically HIPAA compliant. This means that, unlike Skype, Face Time, or Google Hangouts, the platform complies with the requirements under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), ensuring patient protection and confidentiality.
Unlike apps that provide a more “passive” communicative experience, platforms provide a space for live, face-to-face human interaction. Teletherapy uses live, reciprocal communication. Both participants are active in the experience.
As an on-the-ground Speech-Language Pathologist, why should you even CARE what a platform (or telepractice) IS? I’ll tell you why.
You should care because telepractice is growing exponentially. Amid the consistent shortage of Speech-Language Pathologists and need for services, the technology is making it possible to reach clients and students who were previously untreated. It’s growing so quickly, that ASHA added a Special Interest Group (18) to address questions, concerns and discuss research.
You should also care because soon, you might be asked to collaborate with a speech teletherapist, who assists you in providing services for your students. More school districts and medial settings are turning to teletherapy to help with caseload overages and maternity leaves, to ease your burden as an on-the-ground SLP.
You should care because technology and “therapy” are becoming intertwined. If you want to stay on the cutting edge of your field, it’s important that you begin to understand and use the tools that are becoming more “standard” in the therapy world.
You should care because teletherapy research is proving that, when done correctly, it provides amazing outcomes for clients. Teletherapist to client ratio is 1:1 or 2:1. We know how quickly clients make progress when therapy is truly individualized. As research continues to be published, take time to read it. Clinical trials continue to tout its benefits.
You should care because, as a therapist, you can benefit from adding digital NO PRINT materials to your tool box. Especially if you travel to multiple schools. Materials designed for teletherapy display beautifully on iPads and laptops. You can break up with the workbooks and your copy machine for a day, and engage your students using technology they are familiar with in the classroom. This brings your therapy into the 21st century. And your clients will love you for using it.
As a colleague and professional, I encourage you to understand the technology, and read the research on teletherapy. Ask someone who provides teletherapy to show you a “platform”, and how it works. Work on developing a “growth mindset”, as our field expands and changes to meet the needs of our clients. Knowledge is power. You might find yourself encouraged and hopeful, as technology bridges the gap for clients who need us the most.
If you'd like to learn more about how to add DIGITAL resources to your SLP Toolbox click here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/The-Whimsical-Word-Inc
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