We complied with safety measures like social distancing and mask mandates in order to protect the health of ourselves, our family, and others. But what about the services our kids needed, like speech (ST), physical (PT), and occupational therapy (OT)?
The solution was teletherapy!
Receiving therapy virtually did exist before the Covid-19 outbreak, but its use grew exponentially during the pandemic. In fact, by July 2021, telehealth was being utilized at a level 38 times higher than before the pandemic.
Some parents whose children were receiving OT, PT, or ST switched to teletherapy with the idea that it would be a temporary alternative to in-person therapy. But many have chosen to continue taking advantage of the benefits that teletherapy provides.
Now that many Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted or lessened, parents have the option to continue having their child receive therapy virtually or return to a therapy clinic.
The most current research from the use of teletherapy in the past few years can help parents shed some light on the answers to these questions!
A study published in 2021 compared teletherapy to conventional face-to-face therapy for those receiving Speech Therapy.
Cost-effectiveness was one of the factors surrounding teletherapy that was given the highest rating.
Research shows that teletherapy gives families the potential to save on costs that could occur by attending in-person therapy. Those include travel time, travel expenses, and time off work.
With the popularity of teletherapy over the last 2 years, parents have had a chance to experience its benefits long-term. A study published in June of 2022 showed that over 80% of caregivers reported they were satisfied with rehab services provided over teletherapy.
Another reason parents are happy with teletherapy for Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, or Occupational Therapy?
Along with savings in costs, parents have rated high levels of satisfaction with teletherapy because it’s been convenient for them.
If you live in a rural area or are far from the nearest therapy clinic or hospital, teletherapy is a convenient option that eliminates the need to travel (sometimes multiple times per week) for your child’s appointment.
In one study, the ability to use teletherapy reduced travel for families living in rural areas by an average of almost 4 hours.
Parents who have young children and work remotely can easily log on for their child’s therapy appointment during a break in the work day.
Now that many children are back to attending school in person, the hustle and bustle of the afternoons has picked up again. Car line – homework – after school activities and sports – dinner…and for some, therapy!
Eliminating travel time makes having a child in OT, PT, or speech therapy much more do-able for a lot of parents.
And because of the increased convenience of teletherapy, families are able to avoid canceling their child’s therapy appointments at times. More consistent attendance can lead to more progress in therapy, which can lead to less time needed receiving services!
Current research also shows high satisfaction from therapists when providing services over teletherapy.
Parents who are considering virtual versus face-to-face therapy for their children may like knowing that therapists report many positives about virtual therapy.
According to research, here are some of the benefits of teletherapy that therapists report:
- Fewer canceled appointments
- Ability to treat clients in their home/natural environment
- Increased ability to see clients with a variety of diagnoses/disorders
- Higher levels of parent engagement and involvement in therapy sessions
Effectiveness of Teletherapy
But now that it’s not the only option, many want to know – is teletherapy just as effective as in-person therapy?
Current research says yes! And it’s something that both parents and providers seem to agree on.
During one study published in November of 2021, families surveyed reported that “teletherapy was just as effective for their child as in-person services”.
According to a 2021 report from the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), 80% of clients who completed all speech therapy visits over teletherapy showed progress. This was compared to a very similar, and slightly lower, percentage of those who received all therapy visits in person who showed progress (79.9%).
Speech therapists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists can address a variety of skills for children over teletherapy. Sessions can also focus more of their allotted time on working on therapy goals with children.
Children who have difficulty transitioning don’t need to spend time going into and preparing to leave a therapy clinic. And virtual therapy can eliminate things like starting a session late due to parents getting stuck in traffic.
Parents are present for teletherapy sessions, so they are aware of therapy goals and can observe and actively participate in sessions to help boost their child’s progress!