You’re not in the room with the student? You can’t touch the student? How do you keep their attention? How does it work? How do you provide speech therapy online? Do the students make progress? Is it like Skype?
These are a few of the questions I hear when people find out I am an online speech therapist. I get questions, concerns, kudos, amazement, and doubt, sometimes all at the same time. When I first heard about TinyEYE, I had the same questions. I didn’t know how it all worked but I liked what I saw demonstrated. I wanted to relocate back to my home state and saw it as a way to transition without changing careers. After a rigorous interview process I became a TinyEYE therapist. I am sold on the legitimacy, efficacy, enjoyment, and success of serving students online.
It is not the same as being onsite. I am not in the room with the student. I cannot touch the student’s arm to gain their attention and I cannot see their whole school day experience. Some have described these as obstacles. I have found that these are not obstacles but opportunities. I learn something personal about each student and ask them about it—so they know I truly care and relate to them. I make them laugh. They make me laugh. I correct them when they are misbehaving—this can be humorous because they are sometimes surprised that I saw them. This helps to build relationships. They don’t see me as a face in the screen, they see me as their therapist and their friend.
One of my most rewarding moments was when a boy with autism finally paid attention to my instruction and immediately followed my direction. He even gave me a high-five—coming up to the computer screen to high-five my hand. That connection with him was priceless!
I have gotten up and gone to work for many years, spending countless hours on the road. Now, I can make a difference from the comfort of my own home. I am privileged to have a job that keeps me busy and fulfilled. It is a nice transition for me to be able to use my skills in my profession, while spending more hours at home. I still build relationships and see students’ progress. I do still have to look professional—at least from the waist up. Hiding below the view of the camera, it’s jeans or sweats every day. I am also able to save money by working with TinyEYE—travel time, cost of materials, wear on my car, only half a wardrobe…
Many aspects of onsite and online therapy are the same, such as taking data, scheduling therapy sessions and IEP meetings, and all those wonderful breaks. A couple differences are that I can work on data, reports and IEPs from anywhere—even on my patio, and that I am never taken advantage of by spending too many hours at the onsite job or working late.
TinyEYE utilizes completely customizable online game sets to help involve and engage children in their learning. Through the combination of energetic and enthusiastic therapists and exciting game play, our students often forget that they are in therapy and are excited when they realize how well they are doing. Here is an example of a therapy session:
Laughter and humor is very important. The first step in successful learning is for the student to be engaged. TinyEYE contributes to this with some very fun graphics and games that are used for skill building and reward. One of my favorites is a dancing pig- I love it when the students dance along with it!
When I worked as an on-site SLP, I was often overwhelmed by caseload size. I live in a state that does not have a cap on caseload size, and I often felt that I was not meeting the needs of each student as a result. Through online therapy, I am able to provide therapy to manageable caseload, knowing that I am making a difference in the life of each and every student I serve. My time spent is with the student. There is no transitioning from classroom to speech room, or from school to school. With a click of the mouse I am at my other school and the aide helps with transitioning the students from classroom to speech room. I am able to see more students in a day, and know that every one of them is getting the attention they deserve.
Admittedly, there are some moments when I miss being onsite—the interaction with other staff, catered lunches, PTO encouragement and gifts and seeing the students in all aspects of their school day. One teacher did pick up her laptop and show me around her classroom—that was fun!
What I miss from working onsite is easily made up for by the community and support that I receive working with TinyEYE. At TinyEYE, I have a level of support that I did not have while working onsite. I meet monthly with my mentor team of online SLPs. These meetings are valuable for so many reasons including camaraderie, networking, and guidance. TinyEYE also has a very supportive team in the office and out in the field. They have paired me with other therapists who are experienced handling any challenges I may face—whatever it may be—because we are such a large team with a vast number of specialties, there is always someone available who can help. Marnee, one of TinyEYE’s owners is an SLP who has worked onsite and online with school systems. Her work to ensure that the student always comes first is inspirational.
When I applied to join TinyEYE, I didn’t know how much I’d enjoy working as an online therapist. But, it worked! I love what I do. I have to have personal connection with people to enjoy my work—and through TinyEYE, I do.
Providing online speech therapy has given me the opportunity to learn and grow. I have learned a whole new way to make a difference – engaging students through TinyEYE. There was a bit of a learning curve getting used to the ins and outs of TinyEYE’s customized therapy and reporting software, but the training was excellent and I always had help along the way. Now, I am making a difference in someone’s life without even leaving my house. I am effectively using the reporting system to save time and energy so that my students are always my number one priority. After 18 years as an onsite speech therapist, I was intimidated by the different delivery mode, but I did it. I was energized by the change, and I don’t regret my decision to join TinyEYE for a second.