At Iris Speaks we believe in facts and evidence, so we’re keen to put some common myths about online Speech and Language therapy to bed !

  1. You can only work on communication skills face-to-face

Even with the growing use of technology, children need to be able to interact with other people in the here and now – to play, get their needs met, share their thoughts and feelings, and learn.  Of course developing face-to-face communication skills is the fundamental aim of Speech and Language Therapy, even when it is delivered online.

Most online Speech and Language therapy services insist there is an adult present during the session, to join in and help the child with the activities.  This is often a family member or member of school staff – someone the child will definitely spend more time with in their daily life than the therapist!  This person will therefore be best placed to help the child use their new communication skills outside of therapy sessions.  Research has shown that well-trained parents are as effective as Speech and Language therapists at delivering therapy (Law et al 2010).  It’s the small changes we can help you make to your everyday communication style, or ideas and strategies we can teach you to use in homework activities, that will have the greatest impact on your child’s communication skills.

Once you view the online therapist as coaching and training up the adult sitting with the child, it’s easier to understand how online therapy is still working on the same communication skills as face-to-face therapy.

  1. You can work on all communication skills online – technology can do everything these days! Technology claims it can do everything these days, how can I trust it is effective for my child?

Alarm bells go off in my head whenever any treatment claims to cure a wide range of problems.  Any intervention or programme should be clear about who could benefit, and who might need a different approach.

For the under 3’s online Speech and Language therapy may not be appropriate, or might focus on supporting and coaching you as a parent rather than working directly with your child.  Some elements of social communication, such as joint attention, turn taking, or peer interaction, are less suitable for one-to-one online therapy.  Parent training and strategies can still be provided if advice is needed with these areas.

The quality of the online connection will also have an impact on the success of the session.  If there is a clear connection, good sound quality and suitable screen view, online Speech and Language therapy is effective for children with speech difficulties (Waite et al 2006, Grogan-Johnson et al 2010, 2011, 2013 ), primary-school aged children with language difficulties (Fairweather et al 2016, Gabel et al 2013), children who have a stutter (O’Brian et al 2008, 2014), and children with hearing impairment (Constantinescu 2012).  Online therapy has been used successfully to coach parents of pre-schoolers in early language development strategies (McCullough 2001, Kelso et al 2009).  It has also been seen to be reliable for language assessment (Waite et al 2010) and speech assessment (Waite et al 2006).  This is a very new area of Speech and Language therapy, and the research is racing to keep up with technological developments.  Iris Speaks aims to be at the forefront of online therapy and research, and our articles, e-books, courses and social media feeds will keep you informed of the latest research.

  1. Speech and language therapy in person will always be better than online speech and language therapy

Not necessarily.  When deciding whether to opt for face-to-face or online Speech and Language therapy, you need to carefully consider:

The experience and skills of the Speech and Language Therapist.  Does the therapist have experience working with children with similar difficulties?  Have they got up-to-date training and peer support?  Are they able to access resources and therapy interventions that are supported by research?

Time of therapy sessions.  Will the child need to miss any school lessons?  Will therapy take place on a day and time when the child – and just as importantly, you – are ready to devote your full attention and energy to it?

Location of therapy.  Will the therapy sessions take place in a setting that your child feels happy and relaxed in?  How much travel time will you need to factor into your day?

  1. I need lots of expensive kit to take part in sessions. I probably also need to be a technical genius…

Not at all!  If you are able to read this blog, it is likely you have all the kit and skills you need.  You need a computer with a webcam and a microphone (most have these in-built), and an internet connection.  You can check your kit here. You also need a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed by others during your online therapy session.  Depending on the age of your child, this may be best at sitting at a table, but very young children might prefer to sit on the floor.  For younger children, the therapist will incorporate plenty of movement breaks and lively activities into sessions so your child might not be sat down for long!

This is a checklist for everything you need for Iris Speaks.

  1. This is just yet more screen time…

The screen time debate is not new, and continues to be hotly debated.  The Royal College of Speech and Language therapists provide a common sense perspective, stating that “concerns about screen time need to be balanced with possible benefits.  It is also advised that therapists ensure parents are aware of the need to interact with the child when they are using an app.”  The same goes for online Speech and Language therapy – your child will get so much more from it if you take an active part in the session.  Remember that the aim of Speech and Language therapy support is to train and support you to be able to support and develop your child’s communication skills in your everyday life.

If this article on common myths about online Speech and Language therapy has whetted your appetite, Iris Speaks provides a no obligation consultation service, where you can discuss your child’s communication skills with an experienced Iris Speaks consultant, and find out whether online Speech and Language therapy might be right for you and your child.

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