With schools closed around the country, and the possibility that many will remain so, it’s time to start thinking outside the box when it comes to delivering education-based therapy services. For children with special needs, they don’t stop needing services just because school is happening via remote learning. Speech therapists and mental health counselors have been providing services via teletherapy for years. Now, this modality is set to become part of all school-based therapists’ repertoire! For pediatric therapists, this is particularly challenging, as so much of our service delivery is “hands-on”, and I mean that literally. It is easy to focus on all of the things we cannot do as clinicians, but there is a whole lot more that we CAN do as school-based therapists that can have a very positive impact on our students and their families. We need to find new ways to share our skills and strategies, so that children do not start losing skills due to a prolonged lapse in services.
Zoom: A Free, Easy FERPA Compliant Solution
There are a lot of teletherapy platforms out there. But given that this is likely a short-term challenge for our profession, Zoom is a no-cost way to connect with your students while they are at home. It’s free to download for both you and your students’ families and very easy to use. Zoom meetings enable you and your student to view one another and communicate in real time. You can also utilize some of the platforms features, such as screen sharing, to show pictures of activity cards, play movement videos, share music, and demonstrate activities right on camera. Because you can have a full view of your student (and their parents or siblings) during the session, the experience is both interactive and effective in terms of you ability to provide ongoing assessment.
Step one is to go to https://zoom.us/ and create a zoom account. The site has several tutorials (mostly 1-2 minutes in length) that will show you the basics of how to use the platform, such as how to share your screen, sound etc. Your students’ families will need to go to zoom as well, so that they can interact with you on the platform. It is good to call the family before starting your first session to help them prepare with space and activities. Remember- you won’t be there to be on-duty for safety, so clearing some space in a living room or playroom is key! Once you establish a date and time for the session, you can invite the family to your Zoom meeting via email right from the Host a Meeting link on the zoom site. The instructions are easy to follow and will send a link to your meeting right in the email. You and your students can use Zoom from your smart phone, tablet or laptop—all you need is a camera and a microphone.
Making your Sessions Fun and Effective
Here are some things you can do to get your online teaching off to a good start!
Video and Audio
- Don’t forget to turn on your video so students can see you.
- What helps here is that if the student’s phone or laptop is on the floor you can see what they are doing and you can see their movements. A parent may need to help facilitate device position to attain this.
- Test your video and audio before your meeting at zoom.us/test.
- Look at the camera on your phone, tablet or laptop. This tactic will mimic the in-person feeling of eye contact. Looking at the camera makes the audience feel like you’re really talking to them.
- Adjust the camera on your device if it is too low or high. Your camera should be at eye level. You’ll be able to see what you look like in a small box on the screen, so it’s easy to make adjustments
Your surroundings are your stage. Make sure they set you up for success.
- Clean up and have a simple background. Zoom also provides virtual backgrounds to help you disguise even the most recklessly cluttered environments.
- Lights. Position yourself so that most of the light is coming from in front of you (behind your monitor), instead of behind you. If you have a window behind you, shut the blinds. Otherwise, you will be backlit.
- Find a quiet space, shut the door, and mute yourself as necessary. For many of us, working at home with our children off from school, this may not be ideal, but we can do the best we can!
How to Use Screen Sharing
With Zoom you can share your screen with a student AND watch video of them doing the activities so you can give feedback. There are loads of children’s videos on Youtube that incorporate movement and postural stability activities. There are a few good ones listed below to help you get started.
You can start at the beginning or at a specific point in the video where it’s focused on a student’s specific goals.
- See PT-Specific Teletherapy Ideas
- See OT-Specific Teletherapy Ideas
- See Speech-Specific Teletherapy Ideas – coming soon!
- See Behavior-Specific Teletherapy Ideas – coming soon!
PTS is proud to support its clinicians with the tools they need to help more kids with fewer resources including Teletherapy! To access more resources check out our website! To talk to a PTS team member about how we can help you serve your students especially in these uncertain times, contact us today.