Girl sitting at desk working on speech therapy at home

Online Speech Therapy: What It Is and Who It Can Help?

Online speech therapy is when therapy for communication issues like Apraxia of Speech, late talking (which can impact a child’s level of frustration), or Aphasia after a stroke is provided by a speech therapist remotely. The speech therapist and the client or patient connect online by video via their a computer.

When providing speech therapy online, a speech pathologist can provide assessments and therapy to children and adults from the comfort of their home. Parents and caregivers can also be involved which helps patients make progress faster.

Photo of a woman with laptop and headphones for speech therapy online.

What is Online Speech Therapy?

Many forms of  intervention and therapy are done with or without a person present in a traditional clinic, and online speech therapy is no different. However, speech therapy done online includes completing assessments, engaging in therapy, and communicating with therapists when the child or adult receiving therapy is at home. Sessions are in an online video chat via Zoom, which all of us have gotten used now due to the disruptions of Covid-19.

All activities can be completed online with the speech therapist and client. For example, with assessments, a speech pathologist will ask questions to get an idea of how the patient communicates with the world and how they express their thoughts and feelings. The family or caregivers can also be interviewed to determine the best course of treatment for the client.

 

Who Can Benefit from Online Speech Therapy?

Sometimes it’s helpful to find a speech pathologist with a very specific area of expertise and learn from that specialist. When you don’t have this kind of one-on-one relationship, the services you’re seeking will be limited and won’t be of much benefit.

Other times, you’ll benefit from an online therapist with experience with children and adults of any age. Different people require different kinds of therapy so find someone who will be a good fit for you.

Speech therapy can be helpful to those who have trouble with communication including language issues, speech difficulties, cognitive issues that are a result of a stroke or aging or other disease (like dementia) or fluency (like stuttering) issues that they have been dealing with since childhood. Some speech therapy clients are even born with congenital issues or medical conditions that make it hard to hear, listen, or speak. Others seek help in the after an injury or illness.

Many people who opt for speech therapy experience one or more ongoing challenges. These are some of the most common diagnoses that are often associated with communication:

  • Apraxia of Speech (in children or even acquired in adults) is a neurological motor planning condition that inhibits the ability to move muscles as desired. Difficulty controlling throat or face muscles affects clarity of speech. It is often mis-diagnosed and requires an expert speech therapist to be on the team.

  • Additional physical conditions such as swallowing disorders, breathing disorders, and other motor development problems make it harder to speak.

There are also medical diagnoses that refer specifically to language expression and processing. Speech therapy is therefore beneficial to people who have experienced the following:

  • Dysarthria, which manifests as slow or slurred speech due to weakened muscle control. It’s connected to ALS, multiple sclerosis, and strokes.

  • Aphasia, which is defined as difficulty with speaking and understanding speech. It’s associated with strokes or with physical trauma that injures the language processing  the parts of the brain that process language.

This is a not a complete list.  Therapy with a speech and language therapist can help improve quality of life for a patient wants to improve or even just keep their spoken language abilities. Many of the people who benefit from speech therapy may not yet be diagnosed and there can even be other neurological conditions that affect communication skills that require the help of an SLP.

child laying on the floor with tablet saying hello to speech therapist

How Does Online Speech Therapy Work?

Online speech therapy can be done at home, at the child’s school, or in a classroom setting for issues like reading or other academic skills. The same speech pathologist can provide online therapy for different people. They might work with multiple kids or adults at once in a classroom setting or on a laptop in their own home.

A speech pathologist is traditionally in the clinic, which is usually in a hospital or specialized rehabilitation center. With speech therapy online, patients who need speech therapy don’t have to travel long distances for their speech therapy session. If patients have multiple problems, like a language disorder, the therapy can be provided in more than one location and can be completed much faster since the whole family becomes part of the team, there are no issues with commuting and generalization of learned skills happens faster.

There are even SLPs  that provide speech therapy online in a school setting.  A Speech Pathologist Presents an Individualized Plan of Action or an Individualized Education Plan in a school. A speech pathologist working in teletherapy works with a student or their family to create a plan of action that includes goals for the therapy and specific tasks to help the client meet those goals. These tasks include learning specific vocabulary words and sentences, learning new gestures, learning social skills to make friends in a school or or relearning verbal skills they have lost due to a brain injury.

Is Online Speech Therapy Effective?

The short answer is yes! A qualified speech pathologist will consider all communication issues, including their history, family situation, and personal interaction to make a determination if speech therapy online is right for the child or adult who is inquiring about services. It can help to ask for an evaluation if you are concerned about an issue with your child’s communication skills.

Research shows that speech therapy using technology helps many types of issues. For example, for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder research shows that a speech therapist has the opportunity to improve communication skills and the overall language skills of children with sensory processing disorder. For example, a therapist can assess the children’s language skills using various intervention types and develop a personalized treatment plan.

Girl sitting at desk working on speech therapy at home

Are There Benefits to Online Speech Therapy?

There are many benefits to speech therapy online. Our clients have said that some of the reasons they choose speech online are:

  • It’s Affordable: Speech therapy online with us is significantly cheaper than going to a face to face clinic which can cost around $200 per session
  • It’s Convenient: Getting the care you need from a licensed and certified speech language pathologist while in your own home is very convenient. There are no long commutes and no waiting rooms. And often times, children and adults learn best when in their own home environment.
  • It’s More Accessible: People who live in rural or remote areas do not always have an easy time finding a speech therapist close to their home. And if there is a speech therapist close by, they may not be an expert in their needs. Working with a speech therapist online removes any geographic barriers and gives everyone access to a specialist in their area of need.
  • Flexible Scheduling: Often, speech therapy clinics are open from 9-5. We are available mornings, evenings, night and weekends so there is a lot more flexibility for scheduling your session. School or work schedules don’t interfere so you can fit speech therapy around your availability.
  • Expert Therapists Available: There are a lot of specializations in speech therapy and the SLP who is an expert in childhood language may not be the best SLP to treat an adult after a stroke. Similarly the SLP in the local clinic or school may not be the best one to deal with a child with a specific medical diagnosis like Autism Spectrum Disorder. With our speech therapy services online you have access to a wide variety of therapists who specialize in your needs and have years of experience.
  • Parent/Cargiver Involvement: Children and adults can make more progress to achieving their communiation goals when a parent  or caregiver can be actively involved in their sessions or activities as suggested by an SLP. The strategies and techniques modelled by your speech therapist should be practiced at home. When speech therapy is delivered online, parents and caregivers usually sit in on a session and therefore are more active participants in the speech care that is provided.

Does Insurance Cover Speech Therapy?

You should contact your insurance company in advance of starting speech therapy to determine if it is covered or if your costs will be reimbursed.

Many companies deny claims for a variety of reasons. They are required to provide a written reply to explain the rejection, which may be:

  • There was no “medical necessity” for speech therapy (medical necessity is when there is an underlying medical diagnosis that can affect speech like aphasia or a traumatic brain injury
  • Speech therapy is not a covered service
  • There are viable alternatives like receiving speech therapy at a public school
  • Treatment would be for developmental issues (not medical) and therefore not necessary or the child might outgrow the issue. Often adults are denied for this reason as well.

Sometimes insurance companies approve a limited amount of sessions. For some people this is enough but for others it’s just not enough time to get to the heart of the issue and make a change.

Keep In Mind

Increasingly, more people are going online to access online information, books, movies and music, but should you use it to access medical or therapy information? The short answer is yes. A few medical websites are specifically tailored for those seeking advice and diagnosis online. Going online for services can be a great way to learn about new medical terms, better diagnoses, new procedures, or new treatments, but don’t forget to always consult with your healthcare team for diagnosis and treatment.

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