As a teletherapist, there are many tasks that can be completed before starting teletherapy with your clients. Setting up your office for telepractice, making sure you have the appropriate equipment, and understanding the ethics involved with remote therapy services are subjects that will be discussed in future blog posts. Considerations such as contacting the school district that you will be working with, reaching out to clients/parents/teachers to introduce yourself, and creating files for each of your clients to maintain documents/materials are just a few that will be discussed in this post.
What do you need to consider to be prepared for the upcoming school year?
Download this step-by-step checklist AND read on to find out…
Even before being assigned a caseload by a telepractice company, here are a few tips to help you streamline and onboard quickly:
- Familiarize yourself with the platform you will be using during the school year. The Verge Learning Platform is great for telepractice. It has a free, 30-day trial, so check it out!
- Set up your account by entering your information: name, contact info, district name.
- Check out the materials library available through the platform. The Verge Learning platform offers 1000+, “no print” materials and they are organized by age, grade, disorder, etc!
- Identify a few materials and mark them as “favorites” that you might use with particular speech/language goals.
- Upload your personal materials to the platform. The Verge Learning platform allows you to upload your own materials, so you have them at your fingertips!
- Examine the type of client information you can add into the system once you have that information available. The Verge Learning platform allows you to enter the client’s name, DOB, address, parent contact information, the client’s educational team, family members, student goals, and any homework you’ve assigned.
- PRACTICE- this is important!
Practice using the teletherapy platform until you can easily move between materials and clients. Practice using a second laptop to sign in as a “client” in order to see what the platform looks like from a client’s perspective. This will assist you if you need to troubleshoot during a teletherapy session.
- Contact the teletherapy company or the company that offers the platform with any questions you have. They should walk you through the platform and answer all of your questions.
Typically, the Telepractice company will provide you with the name and contact information for the Director of Special Education at the district as this person is typically your supervisor. S/He will be the person to contact with questions such as who will be the tele-facilitator that brings the clients to the teletherapy room or computer to receive services.
- Ask questions – Items to ask the Director to include (for each building you are servicing):
- A school calendar (or you may be able to find this online on the district website)
- A list of teachers and their contact information (email, cell phone numbers classroom phone numbers)
- A list of times/classes you should not pull clients for teletherapy
- The school bell schedule
- The school lunch schedule
Embrace Your Caseload
Once you have access to your clients’ IEPs you can really get organized!
- Enter their date of birth, goals, parent and teacher contact information, and the teletherapy start and end dates.
- Create file folders (either hard-copy or digital), one for each client in which to store any paperwork, materials to use for teletherapy (or bookmark it through the platform itself). The Verge Learning platform allows you to enter in a variety of information as mentioned earlier in this post. You can also bookmark items in the vast materials library so they are at your fingertips.
- Create a lesson plan for the first week of teletherapy.
- Create a spreadsheet. I am “old-school” and create paper lesson plans, but I know many teletherapists who document information using a Google spreadsheet or Google doc or just enter it into the Verge Learning platform to keep it organized.
Organize for IEPs
Keep track of your monthly IEPs by…
- Creating a chart, listing each month of the school year.
- Adding your clients’ IEP due dates (under the appropriate month in numerical sequence).
- Add any triennial evaluations that may be coming due during the year.
- Highlight the clients you case manage.
- Post this on your bulletin board in order to review it frequently.
Meet Your Team
At this point, create an email introducing yourself to the teachers of your clients.
- Keep it concise explaining:
- Who you are.
- You will be providing their students’ Speech/Language therapy remotely (i.e., via video-conferencing) according to each client’s IEP.
- The clients you will be seeing from his/her classroom.
- The time zone in which you live.
- How you would like to be contacted if they have questions.
- The date you will be starting to see clients (when you have that information available).
- Ask each teacher for their class schedule.
- Ask each teacher to list the 3 best times to pull clients for teletherapy.
Meet the Parents
Reach out directly by…
- Creating an email introducing yourself to each client’s parents/guardians explaining:
- Who you are
- Your title
- You will be working with their child via video-conferencing
- Their child’s Speech/Language goals
- How you would like them to contact you with questions
- Your therapy start date
Set Your Schedule
This is where the fun begins─ coordinating your student’s schedules with the teachers and other service requirements! Once you are ready to develop a schedule, create it using a Google spreadsheet in order to edit it.
- Be flexible. Chances are you will be making multiple scheduling adjustments throughout the school year.
- Be sure to include 10-15 minute breaks every 2 to 3 hours in order to get up and move around.
- Include a lunch break as it is hard to stay focused and energized when you are hungry!
Plan Your Sessions
Have a number of different activities ready and available for each of your clients to use each session.
- The younger the age, the more activities you should plan.
- Do not just plan on using one material or task as clients decide that they do not want to do an activity or you experience a technical problem with a website or worksheet.
The suggestions listed in this post should help you prepare for your teletherapy caseload. Practicing using the platform cannot be stressed enough. To truly feel comfortable providing services, know the platform’s tools and how to use them. Being prepared will help eliminate those first-day jitters. Be sure to download and use the checklist I created for you to help with every step of the way.
Here’s wishing you the best as you prepare for the upcoming school year!
Are there any additional steps you use to prepare for the beginning of the school year? How do you prepare to address those first-day jitters?
By Tracy Sippl, M.S., CCC-SLP
Teletherapy Consultant at Verge Learning
XceptionalED Leader at XceptionalED
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