Speech Teletherapy vs. Traditional Speech Therapy

After more than 40 years practicing in my field of speech language pathology, I am still energized by my role in helping my clients as well as my profession. As a group of SLP’s, we are constantly revising, improving and perfecting how we deliver our services particularly through evidence-based practices. I love to meet fellow entrepreneurs in our field who are branching off into related businesses that provide useful research, “the Informed SLP”,  create daily therapy materials for school-based therapists, design speech-language targeted,  effective toys and books and most recently speech teletherapy. I was contacted by a new teletherapy company, Expressable, led by speech language pathologist and founder Leanne Sherred. Since I find speech language pathologists both intrigued and somewhat skeptical about this method of delivery of services, I thought it would be good to hear from Leanne about their approach:

What inspired you and your colleagues to start Expressable teletherapy?

As a certified speech-language therapist, I spent many years watching the transformative effect therapy can have on a person’s social, emotional, academic, and professional development. Unfortunately, I also witnessed first hand the challenges conventional speech therapy can present to both clients and therapists. On the client side, many families struggle to afford speech therapy. Insurance companies don’t classify speech therapy as “medically necessary” so coverage is often denied or services are limited, making paying out-of-pocket prohibitively expensive. In addition, speech therapists can earn more than the national average with flexible hours working from home.

What speech disorders/delays would teletherapy be most successful with? (Articulation, Aphasia etc.) Which would be most challenging? (For example, how does this work with an antsy toddler where we are used to “hands on” therapy?)

Teletherapy offers many of the traditional speech therapy services found in a practice or school-based setting, including apraxia, stuttering and fluency, reading readiness, language disorders, speech sound disorders, voice disorders, and accent modification. Of course there are some cases in which it’s preferred to have an in-person therapist working directly with a client. One example is a medically-complex or severe swallowing disorder. Another might be a tongue thrust, where tactile cues are particularly helpful. 

Teletherapy is also a wonderful option for families with toddlers or children that are prone to being antsy or inattentive, due to the opportunity for parent involvement (well supported in evidence based practice), a comfortable environment within the home vs. clinic or school, and taking advantage of stimulating and engaging interactive tools that kids enjoy.

What do you as a therapist find most positive about this mode of delivery compared to the traditional in person model?

Personally, as an SLP, online speech therapy is much more conducive to my lifestyle, allowing therapists to work full or part time, or supplement their their 9-5 jobs. It’s a savings of time and money and I can work from home. Since teletherapy companies aren’t paying for a physical location, administrative tasks, or insurance overhead, these cost savings are passed on to the client as well as the therapist. Our therapists earn more money than the national average.  

What can you accomplish during therapy with this model that you can’t with traditional therapy?

It’s affordable,  accommodates a frenetic schedule, utilizes familiar and ever more pervasive technologies, delivers to the comfort of a client’s home, and offers parent involvement.

What is the cost of therapy?

Teletherapy with Expressable starts at $49 a week for a half hour session.

Is online speech therapy as effective as traditional therapy?

One of the landmark studies that supports Speech teletherapy as an effective delivery method was conducted by Kent State University researchers. They compared school students receiving speech language therapy in a traditional setting to those receiving teletherapy. According to the report: “Student progress reports indicated that the children made similar progress during the study whichever treatment method was used.” In addition, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) recognized teletherapy as a valid means of service delivery based on a strong body of evidence.

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Thank you to Leanne Sherred and Spencer Magloff from “Expressable” for sharing your new venture with us. I look forward to future insights on how teletherapy is going, with real life examples of those aha moments when you see where this model is uniquely effective with clients and gratifying as a speech language pathologist! Particularly as an SLP who has specialized in pediatric therapy,  I will be interested to see how it works with our littlest moving targets around 15 months of age. I found those little clients the most intense physically to work with as I have memories of every few minutes having to pull out a new toy, play in the sink,  slide down a slide, or take a walk outside to elicit sounds and words in play therapy.  But I am ready to learn something new so please return with your successes and failures (I learn the most from mine!) so we can learn and grow as SLP’s.

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