by Amy Knackstedt, MAEd, CED
Both personally and professionally, we have all been faced with many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. As teachers and therapists, we want to continue to provide quality and effective listening and spoken language (LSL) services to the children and families we serve. CID has been providing LSL teleintervention services to families who live in rural areas of Missouri for years. During this time of stay-at-home orders, we want to share some things to consider as you continue to provide services, by transitioning from in-person therapy to teleintervention.
- Choosing a Platform
There are many different platforms available to provide teleintervention services. We encourage you to use a platform that is HIPAA and FERFA compliant. Some platforms ensure that all components are compliant, but for others, you will have to pay more to receive HIPAA and FERPA guaranteed compliancy. You also may want to consider the online tools you will need for sessions. Many platforms allow you to upload a document to share and have a tool bar with a variety of interactive choices.
- Bandwidth Matters
Both the professional and the caregiver/child will need to have adequate bandwidth speeds in order for a session’s video and audio quality to be efficient for LSL teleintervention. You can test your bandwidth for free at www.speedtest.net. It is recommended to have at least 3Mbps for download speed and 5 Mbps for upload speed. If you are having bandwidth issues, contact your internet provider. Many providers are offering an upgrade to high speed internet during this trying time. If your bandwidth checks out fine, but you are still having difficulties, check your platform’s website for updates on possible platform overloads or technical difficulties. Because many are trying to work online, some platforms can become overloaded and not be able to run at full capability at that time. Communicate issues with the families you work with to help ease frustration. They may find comfort in knowing it was not anything they could have done differently.
- Coaching Model Online
As professionals, we know that using strength-based language and strategies within family routines is best practice when working with young children and their families. The Coaching Model has also become a best practice for working with young children and families due to the caregiver being an active participant in each session. The caregiver helps create shared goals and activities to practice LSL strategies with their child. The professional and caregiver reflect on the child’s progress and caregiver’s understanding and make adjustments to best fit a family’s needs and strengths. You can use the Coaching Model online just as you would in-person. In fact, because you are not physically present in a family’s home, you will rely on the caregiver to have the decided upon toys and activities ready to go for a session to be most successful. This allows the caregiver more opportunities to create ideas for practicing shared goals and strategies and builds their confidence. Learn more about the Coaching Model’s key components and how they can be used in sessions, by checking out this blog post.
- Practice Your Growth Mindset!
This school year, CID has spent time, as an organization, focusing on building our growth mindset. What a perfect year for the topic! If you have a growth mindset, you believe you do have the ability to improve and/or learn new skills. As professionals, we now need to find a way to remotely provide services to the children and families we serve. The key here is we CAN still provide good services to children and families who need it; it will just be done online! You may not (yet) feel comfortable planning and conducting a session online, but with practice, patience, and a little bit of grace, you CAN start feeling comfortable. Allowing time for reflection and collaboration with colleagues and/or your supervisor can also be helpful; you can learn and grow from one another!
- We Are All in This Together!
We are currently living in a time of great uncertainty and fear. Please keep in mind that the families you work with may also be feeling uncomfortable with the idea of doing therapy online. Taking on a new therapy platform, as well as working from home and homeschooling their own children, may have them feeling overwhelmed. Aren’t we all? Your attitude toward teleintervention will have an impact on the willingness of the family to participate. Discussing the benefits of teleintervention, setting clear expectations and reminding them you will do this together, will help the family feel more confident as they take on teleintervention. For examples of the specific roles the professional and caregiver take on to provide quality teleintervention, please check out this guide from Hearing First (you must have an account to view).
As you embark on the journey of conducting therapy online, we hope you will remember that no matter what, good therapy is good therapy, whether it is done in-person or online. Create shared goals with your families and allow them to reflect on strategies learned and used to build their child’s listening and spoken language skills. Try to stay positive and take on the new challenges with the belief of “I got this”… because you do.
Amy Knackstedt is currently serving as a parent educator in the JoAnne Parish Knight Family Center at Central Institute for the Deaf (CID). She holds a Master’s degree in Early Intervention in Deaf Education from Fontbonne University. From 2006 to 2015, she worked at St. Joseph institute for the Deaf, where she spent 5 years teaching in early childhood and elementary classrooms and 4 years working in teleintervention with children of all ages and their families.
Amy has a great passion for building partnerships with families to encourage growth in both child outcomes and family involvement. In 2014, she presented on the topic of coaching in teleintervention at the Alexander Graham Bell Association of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Convention. She currently serves on the Illinois Telehealth for Early Intervention Workgroup and the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM) Teleintervention Learning Community.