With the recent closure of all schools and child development Centres across Thailand, hundreds of children now do not have access to in-person Speech Therapy. While this closure period has been predicted to last a total of 5 weeks in Thailand, there is a possibility that it might go on for longer, without a predictable end-date in sight.
So, does this mean that children who were attending regular Speech Therapy can not have Speech Therapy for as long as this closure period lasts?
Especially if there is an openness to other forms of Therapy, beyond the ‘traditional in-person Therapy model’, where the therapist and child are together in the same room. In fact, there is an increasingly popular solution to overcome these barriers, called 'Teletherapy'. Let me tell you more about Teletherapy, below.
What is Teletherapy?
Teletherapy involves the use of communicative technology to provide Speech Therapy services, such as video-conferencing, email, and telephone. Nowadays, Zoom and Google Meet are popular online platforms for Teletherapy sessions.
What do parents think?
It is understandable that some parents are more comfortable with traditional in-person therapy, as they are more familiar with this. However, these days, in-person Therapy is not an option. Undoubtedly, a newer form of Therapy is better for every child’s development, than no Therapy.
The common misconception is that Teletherapy will not be as effective as traditional therapy. However, scientific research has proven that this is not the case.
What does the research say?
Teletherapy has been widely used to assess, diagnose, provide treatment and support to children and their families . Scientific research has shown that Teletherapy results in similar outcomes for both diagnosis and treatment when compared to traditional in-person therapy .
Teletherapy can also be a sustainable solution on a wider scale, such as, when used in schools where many children attend Speech Therapy weekly. An Australian study investigated the effectiveness of Teletherapy in school settings . The findings of this study showed that most of the goals outlined for the children receiving Teletherapy at school were achieved at the level expected, or beyond .
Here are some benefits of Teletherapy:
1. It is the safest option for your child and family at the moment
Since Teletherapy does not involve direct contact between people, there is no risk of spreading germs or a communicable disease during the online session.
2. Teletherapy practice is context-relevant
During traditional in-person Therapy, children typically practice skills in a Therapy setting, such as the clinic, or in a 'speech room' at school. Children are then expected to transfer these skills in their natural environment, at home. However, Teletherapy removes the entire pre-transfer practice layer and gets straight into practice in the home environment. Practicing skills at home allows children to make the association between these skills and their home environment - this is likely to support children to apply these skills during daily interactions at home.
3. Flexible consultation time
Teletherapy allows for more opportunities for consultation times than traditional in-person sessions, for both parents and therapists.
4. Eliminates travel time
Children and parents can become exhausted after traveling long-distances- or being stuck in traffic over short distances, such as in Bangkok. Similarly, therapists also become tired when traveling long distances, which may impact on the frequency of the visits arranged . Personally, I have been stuck in traffic for time periods longer than the total Therapy time scheduled at a school or Centre before!
Teletherapy eliminates this need for parents, children, and therapists to travel for sessions.
5. Wide applicability
Teletherapy is being used in the assessment and treatment of many areas of speech and language delays and communication disorders . These include articulation, Autism, cognitive-communication disorders such as after traumatic brain injury, language delay, stuttering, voice disorders, and swallowing difficulties.
6. Gives you a break!
Teletherapy allows you to take a break, while your child is engaged in active learning online with their therapist. Your child's therapist can then update you about the session and provide homework for your child to practice throughout the week.
Teletherapy is an accessible, safe, effective, and time-efficient way to have Speech Therapy. Most importantly, the outcomes of Teletherapy have been proven similar to those of traditional in-person therapy. I hope that more people will consider this option for their child during this school closure period, and beyond.
The Expat Speechie
Acknowledgement and thanks to the following sources whereby the above information was obtained:
 Reynolds, A. L., Vick, J., & Haak, N. J. (2009). Tele-health applications in speech-language pathology: Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, 15, 310-316.
 Edwards, M., Stredler-Brown, A., & Todd, K. (2012). Expanding use of tele-practice in speech-language pathology and audiology. The Volta Review, 112, 227.
 Fearweather, C., Lincoln, M., & Ramsden, R. (2016). Speech-language pathology teletherapy in rural and remote educational settings: Decreasing service inequities. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 18, 592-602.
 Anderson, K. L., Balandin, S., & Stancliffe, R. J. (2015). Alternative service delivery models for families with a new speech-generating device: Perspectives for parents and therapist. International Journal of Speech Language Pathology, 17, 185-195.
 Dew, A., Vietch, C., Lincoln, M., Brentnall, J., Bulkeley, K., Gallego, G., et al. (2012). The need for new models for delivery of therapy interventions to people with a disability in rural and remote areas of Australia. Journal of Developmental Disability, 37, 50-53.
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