Tech and Teletherapy
Teletherapy is done completely online. This means there will be technical requirements of both the therapist and the students. However, for those just starting teletherapy, the requirements are not always so obvious. Most people know they need a computer and webcam, but beyond that, they tend to be slightly lost.
One of the biggest technical requirements for teletherapy is the internet connection. If the internet speed is not fast enough, the video will buffer or the materials will not load properly. This makes it very difficult for successful therapy sessions. An easy way to test if the internet is fast enough is to go to speedtest.net. This will test the upload and download speeds. It’s a simple way to make sure the internet is fast enough to properly facilitate a session. Bandwidths of 1Mbs download and 0.5Mbs upload are fairly standard requirements for video conferencing speeds.
Another big part of a successful session is the webcam. Nowadays, most laptops have a camera built in. However, in some cases, the camera does not provide a high enough resolution. External webcams not only provide better resolution, but they are also easily adjustable. External cameras also have the added benefit of being used for a documentation camera with proper setup. Not all platforms will support a second camera, but at Lighthouse Therapy, our platform not only supports a documentation camera, the therapist can easily choose between cameras in the platform and rotate the view for the best access. This is especially important for occupational therapy when the therapist needs to see what the student is doing during a tabletop activity. These cameras can also be crucial during assessments and help validate results during the testing process.
As with the webcam, most computers come with a microphone. Some clients question why they cannot just use the computer’s speaker and microphone for their sessions. This relates to best practice for teletherapy. In some situations, the computer equipment simply cannot pick up what is being said and other times, the background noise can interfere. By using a headset, the students will be less distracted by the background noise and the therapists will be better able to understand what they are saying. During articulation therapy in particular, it is extremely important for both the speech therapist and the student to be using a headset with a microphone. This allows the therapist to easily differentiate students correct and incorrect articulation of sounds during assessment and therapy services.
A computer is essential for any session, but what type of computer will work? Most people would assume that a desktop computer would be needed, but that is simply not the case. With advances in design, fewer people have a desktop computer. Clients are more likely to own a laptop. This is why teletherapy is adaptable to a desktop, a laptop, or even an iPad. It is also much easier for the clinician to provide services with an additional monitor. (We would recommend 24 inch monitors as this reduces eye strain when working 6-8 hours a day on a computer.) Switching between tabs or applications during screen sharing activities and conducting assessments is significantly easier for the therapist and allows them to maintain a visual of the student while providing appropriate access to the presented stimulus materials. This is not to say that services cannot be completed with one monitor, but for ease of the clinician and smooth transitions in the sessions, a second monitor is highly recommended.
Having access to the appropriate equipment is important to the success of teletherapy. But the technological necessities are not as daunting as many would think. People already have most of the equipment already. In the end, the basic requirements are a computer, headset, webcam, and internet connection. Everything else is entirely up to the professionals.