5 Ways To Encourage Strong Partnerships In Teletherapy
No matter what setting you work in, there will always be people who don't "buy in" to your therapy services. Maybe it's a parent, or perhaps a teacher you work with. It's common in any field to have others who don't see your value or relevance, and Speech-Language Pathology is no different.
Enter Speech Teletherapy. We aren't that "new" in service delivery model, and yet, we often encounter staff, teachers, parents or even an entire district that simply does NOT believe in the power of virtual care. This puts strain on relationships, and can threaten rapport building and trust- the critical elements that aid in client success.
So, what should you do when you have a person, or perhaps, a large group of people, who simply don't believe in what you do? I have experienced this, at times, and it's very difficult to turn on the camera when the adults on the other side are cold, unwilling to collaborate, and flip about the amazing session you've planned for the day. Below are the following things that I have tried, with success, in helping to build strong connections with reluctant partners.
1) Record 10 minutes of your session often, and hit send. I've found that most people don't "buy in" because they simply can't imagine how a child can form a relationship or be "taught" from behind a screen. If there is a way for you to safely (think HIPAA/FERPA), send or upload a small sample of a GREAT session to the person(s) you need to convince, then do so. They probably won't watch an entire 30 minutes, but I think a small sample recorded a few times a month can be so powerful! The kids LOVE you and ARE making progress, so send proof! Just make sure you have documented permission to share before you record, and send.
2) Send Warm Fuzzies! Remember in grade school when your teacher wrote out a colorful paper "certificate" with a smelly sticker (I'm a kid of the 80's, people)? I often do the same with students virtually. I've created a collection of "warm fuzzies" for that I give to students, that are FREE and easily editable. I like to highlight progress a student has made ("You've increased your /r/ production to 70% this week!") or steps towards social or behavioral goals ("I love how you initiated conversation 3x this session!"), sign it, then send to the student or e-helper to deliver. I always CC: the administrator, teacher or parent who might need convincing that my services are working, and that I'm invested in student progress. Sometimes, I even attach a color graph to show progress over time.
3) Be professional. Always. This really should go without saying. However, this is a JOB. A professional job. Yes, we work from home. But, you need to dress professionally, put on make-up, comb your hair, and have a professional environment for service delivery. No one is going to "buy in" to your services if you consistently wear a hoodie, have your hair in a pony tail, and look like you just rolled out of bed. Imagine if you went to your Doctor's office to review test results, and she walks in wearing yoga pants while eating almonds! You have a professional responsibility to BE professional. From your home. Parents, teachers, and administrators quickly lose respect for if you treat your job like a hobby, instead of a job. Be on time for sessions, communicate well, dress nicely, plan for effective sessions, and control your environment. Make sure your clinical knowledge is solid, and be confident when you present in meetings. Buy in comes quite naturally when people see you as a strong, committed professional. It's as simple as that.
4) Offer to go slightly above and beyond. I know, this is a tough one. Especially dependent upon your pay structure and what is billable. However, if you are able, it might be a good idea to offer to be on a committee at the school, or agree to attend a staff meeting virtually. Ask for access to curriculum so you can "coordinate" your services with units in the classroom setting. Offer to attend a grade level PLC or provide a presentation in an area you see the staff struggling with. If parents need buy in, offer to set up time outside of therapy services to discuss progress or share therapy ideas. Share success stories you've experienced with other clients (again, be confidential). A little extra time can go a long way in helping to build solid relationships.
5) Accept that you can't change everyone. There are times when, no matter what you do, it's just not enough. Your positive spirit and commitment to clients will never be acknowledged or valued. It's a very hard pill to swallow. However, remember WHY you are here. If your client/student loves coming to therapy, is making progress, and is having fun....isn't that all that matters? There are times when it's important to forget the naysayers, and the noise, and just be YOU. If you are confident in your service delivery, perhaps that just has to be enough. Especially if you have worked hard to try and bridge the gap, and have been unsuccessful. Simply focus on your students/clients, their success, and your commitment to amazing service delivery. Eventually, your light will shine bright enough for everyone who matters, to see it.
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